Phebe Saved

Until I went into the sanctuary of God; then understood I their end. Surely thou didst set them in slippery places: thou castedst them down into destruction. How are they brought into desolation, as in a moment! they are utterly consumed with terrors.
~ Psalm 73:17-19

The way of the wicked is as darkness: they know not at what they stumble.
~ Proverbs 4:19

And through covetousness shall they with feigned words make merchandise of you: whose judgment now of a long time lingereth not, and their damnation slumbereth not.
~ 2 Peter 2:3

That say, Let him make speed, and hasten his work, that we may see it: and let the counsel of the Holy One of Israel draw nigh and come, that we may know it!
~ Isaiah 5:19

For the vision is yet for an appointed time, but at the end it shall speak, and not lie: though it tarry, wait for it; because it will surely come, it will not tarry.
~ Habakkuk 2:3

Therefore thus saith the LORD, Behold, I will lay stumblingblocks before this people, and the fathers and the sons together shall fall upon them; the neighbour and his friend shall perish.
~ Jeremiah 6:21

Thus saith the LORD, In an acceptable time have I heard thee, and in a day of salvation have I helped thee: and I will preserve thee, and give thee for a covenant of the people, to establish the earth, to cause to inherit the desolate heritages;
~ Isaiah 49:8

The Instance of Phebe Bartlet – Aged Four, by Jonathan Edwards. The following contains an excerpt from his work, “Narrative of Surprising Conversions”. 1736.

But I now proceed to the other instance that I would give an account of, which is of the little child mentioned before. Her name is Phebe Bartlet, daughter of William Bartlet. I will give the account as I took it from the mouths of her parents, whose veracity none who know them doubt.

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. Then he seriously talked to her about the great things of religion. Her parents didn’t know about it at that time. And usually in the counsels they gave to their children, they did not particularly direct themselves to her because she was so young, and they supposed was not capable of understanding. But after her brother had talked to her, they observed her very earnestly listening to the advice they gave the other children, and she was observed to constantly retire, several times a day (it was concluded) for secret prayer. She grew more and more engaged in religion, and was more frequently in her closet, till at last she habitually visited it five or six times a day. She 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 it most likely she could divert her either by putting it out of her thoughts, or otherwise engaging her inclinations; but she never could observe her fail. She mentioned some very remarkable instances.

Once, of her own accord, Phebe spoke of her unsuccessfulness, in that she couldn’t find God, or something to that purpose. But on Thursday, the last day of July, about the middle of the day, the child being in the closet where she used to retire, her mother heard her speaking aloud, which was unusual and never observed before. Her voice seemed like someone exceedingly importunate and engaged. But her mother could distinctly hear only these words (spoken in her childish manner, but they seemed to be spoken with extraordinary earnestness and out of a distress of soul). Pray blessed Lord, give me salvation! I pray, beg pardon all my sins! When the child was done with 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 crying exceedingly, and rocked her body to and fro, like someone in anguish of spirit. Her mother then asked her whether she was afraid that God would not give her salvation. She answered, Yes, I am afraid I will go to hell! Her mother then endeavored to quiet her, and told her she 37wouldn’t have her cry — she must be a good girl, and pray every day, and she hoped God would give her salvation. But this didn’t quiet her at all. She continued earnestly crying this way, and going on for some time, till at length she suddenly ceased crying and began to smile. Presently she said with a smiling countenance — Mother, the kingdom of heaven has come to me! Her mother was surprised at the sudden alteration, and at her statement, and didn’t know what to make of it. At first she said nothing to her. The child presently spoke again, and said, There is another come to me, and there is another — there is three. And being asked what she meant, she answered, One is — Thy will be done; and there is another — Enjoy him forever. By this, 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 brother’s, who was next neighbor; and when she came back, the child having come out of the closet, met her mother with this cheerful statement: — I can find God now! Referring to what she had before complained of, that she couldn’t 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 that she could find God now, asked her where she could find God; she answered, In heaven. Her sister asked, Why, have you been in heaven? No, said the child. By this it doesn’t seem to have been her imagination of anything 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 if that made her cry. She answered, Yes, I was; but now I will not. Her mother asked her whether she thought that God had given her salvation. She answered, Yes. Her mother asked her when: she answered, Today.

All that afternoon she appeared to be exceedingly cheerful and joyful. One of the neighbors asked her how she felt. 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 in bed, she called one of her little cousins to her, who was present in the room, 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 she added, Everybody should serve God, and get an interest in Christ.

The same day, when the elder children came home from school, they seemed greatly affected by the extraordinary change that seemed to be made in Phebe. Her sister Abigail standing by, her mother took occasion to counsel her to now improve her time, to prepare for another world, upon which Phebe burst into tears, and cried out Poor Nabby! Her mother told her, she would not have her cry. She hoped that God would give Nabby salvation; but that didn’t quiet her. Rather, she continued earnestly crying for some time;. And when she had in a measure ceased, her sister Eunice being by her, she burst into tears again, and cried, Poor Eunice! and she cried exceedingly. When she was almost done, she went into another room, and there looked at her sister Naomi, and burst out again, crying, Poor Amy! Her mother was greatly affected at such a behavior in the child, and didn’t know what to say to her. One of the neighbors coming in a little after, asked her what she had cried for. At first Phebe seemed hesitant to tell the reason. Her mother told her she might tell that person, for he had given her an apple; upon which she said she cried because she was afraid they would go to hell.

At night, a certain minister who was occasionally in town, was at their house, and talked considerably with Phebe about the things of religion. After he was gone, she sat leaning on the table, with tears running out of her eyes. Being asked what made her cry, she said it was thinking about God. The next day being Saturday, she seemed to be in a very affectionate frame for most of the day, had four turns of crying, and seemed to endeavor to curb herself, and hide her tears, and was very hesitant to talk about the reason for it. On the Sabbath day, she was asked whether she believed in God; she answered, Yes; and being told that Christ was the Son of God, she made ready her answer, and said, I know it.

From this time there has appeared a very remarkable abiding change in the child. She has been very strict on the Sabbath, and seems to long for the Sabbath day before it comes, and will often during the week, inquire how long it is to the Sabbath day. She must have the days between particularly counted, before she will be contented. She seems to love God’s house, and is very eager to go there. Her mother once asked her why she had such a mind to go? Was it to see fine folks? She said no, it was to hear Mr. Edwards preach. When she is in the place of worship, she is far from spending her time there as children of her age usually do, but appears with an attention that is extraordinary for such a child. She also appears very desirous at all opportunities, to go to private religious meetings; she is very still and attentive at home during prayer time; and she has appeared affected during the time of family prayer. She seems to delight much in hearing religious conversation. Once, when I was there with some others who were strangers, and talked to her somewhat about religion, she seemed more than ordinarily attentive. And when we had gone, she looked out very wistfully after us, and said — I wish they would come again! Her mother asked why. She said, I love to hear them talk!

She seems to have very much of the fear of God before her eyes, and an extraordinary dread of sin against Him. Her mother mentioned this in the following remarkable instance. Some time in August, last year, she went with some bigger children, to get some plums in a neighbor’s lot, knowing nothing of any harm in what she did. But when she brought some of the plums into the house, her mother mildly reproved her, and told her that she must not get plums without leave, because it was sin. God had commanded her not to steal. The child seemed greatly surprised, and burst out into tears, and cried out, I will not have these plums! Turning to her sister Eunice, she very earnestly said to her — Why did you ask me to go to that plum tree? I would not have gone if you hadn’t asked me. The other children didn’t seem to be much affected or concerned about it; but there was no pacifying Phebe. Her mother told her she might go and ask leave, and then it would not be sin for her to eat them, and sent one of the children to that end. When she returned, her mother told her that the owner had given her leave; now she might eat them, and it would not be stealing. This stilled her a little while, but shortly she broke out again into an exceeding fit of crying. Her mother asked her what made her cry again? Why did she cry now, since they had asked leave? What was it that troubled her now? She asked Phebe several times very earnestly, before she answered, but at last she said it was because — BECAUSE IT WAS SIN. She continued to cry for a considerable time, and said she wouldn’t go again if Eunice asked her a hundred times. She retained her aversion to that fruit for a considerable time, in remembrance of her former sin.

At some times she appears greatly affected and delighted with texts of Scripture that come to her mind. Particularly about the beginning of November, last year, this text came to her mind: Rev 3.20, Behold I stand at the door and knock: if any man hears my voice, and opens the door, I will come in, and sup with him and he with me. She spoke of it to those of her family, with a great appearance of joy, a smiling countenance, and elevated of voice. Afterwards she went into another room, where her mother overheard her talking very earnestly to the children about it, and particularly heard her say to them, three or four times over, with an air of exceeding joy and admiration — Why, it is to SUP WITH GOD. Some time about the middle of winter, very late in the night when all were in bed, her mother perceived that she was awake, and heard her as though she was weeping. She called to Phebe, and asked her what was the matter. She answered with a low voice, so that her mother couldn’t hear what she said; but thinking it might be occasioned by some spiritual affection, said no more to her. But she perceived that Phebe was lying awake, and continued in the same frame for a considerable time. The next morning she asked Phebe whether she cried last night. The child answered, Yes, I did cry a little, for I was thinking about God and Christ, and they loved me. Her mother asked her whether thinking of God and Christ’s loving her made her cry. She answered, Yes, it does sometimes.

She has often manifested a great concern for the good of other souls; and has many times been in the habit of affectionately counseling the other children. Once, about the latter end of September last year, when she and some of the other children were in a room by themselves husking Indian corn, the child, after a while, came out and sat by the fire. Her mother noticed that she appeared to have a more than ordinarily serious and pensive countenance. At last Phebe broke the silence and said, I have been talking to Nabby and Eunice. Her mother asked her what she had said to them. Why, she said, I told them they must pray, and prepare to die; that they had but a little while to live in this world and they must always be ready. When Nabby came out, her mother asked her whether she had said that to them. Yes, she said, She said that and a great deal more. At other times the child took her opportunities to talk to the other children about the great concern of their souls — sometimes so as much to affect them, and send them into tears. She was once exceedingly importunate with her mother to go with her sister Naomi to pray. Her mother endeavored to put her off, but she pulled her by the sleeve, and seemed as if she would by no means be denied. At last her mother told her that Amy must go and pray herself. But, Phebe said, she won’t go. She earnestly persisted to beg her mother to go with her.

She has revealed an uncommon degree of a spirit of charity, particularly on the following occasion. A poor man who lives in the woods, had recently lost a cow that the family much depended on. Being at the house, he was relating his misfortune, and telling about the straits and difficulties they were reduced to by it. Phebe took much notice of it, and it worked exceedingly on her compassions. After she had attentively heard him for a while, she went away to her father, who was in the shop, and entreated him to give that man a cow; and told him that the poor man had no cow! That the hunters or something else had killed his cow! And she entreated him to give him one of theirs. Her father told her that they could not spare one. Then she entreated him to let him and his family come and live at his house. She talked much of the same nature, by which she manifested bowels of compassion toward the poor.

She has manifested great love for 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 about it with an elevated voice, as the most joyful tidings, repeating over and over, Mr. Edwards has come home! Mr. Edwards has come home! She still continues very constant in secret prayer, so far as can be observed (for she seems to have no desire that others observe her when she retires, but seems to be a child of a reserved temper). Every night before she goes to bed, she will say her catechism, and will by no means miss it. She never forgot it except once; and then, after she was in bed, she thought of it and cried out in tears — I have not said my catechism! And she 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. When asked whether she thinks she is prepared for death, she says something doubtful about it. At other times, she seems to have no doubt, and when asked, replies Yes, without hesitation.

Concluding Thoughts

In the former part of this great work of God among us, till it got to its height, we seemed to be wonderfully smiled upon and blessed in all respects. Satan (as observed already) seemed to be unusually restrained. People who before had been involved in melancholy, seemed to be, as it were, awakened from it; those who had been entangled with extraordinary temptations, seemed to be wonderfully set at liberty; and not only so, but it was the most remarkable time of health that I have ever known since I have been in the town. We ordinarily have several bills put up, every Sabbath, for people who are sick, but now we haven’t had so much as one for many Sabbaths in a row.

But after this it seemed to be otherwise, when this work of God appeared to be at its greatest height. A poor weak man who belongs to the town, being in great spiritual trouble, was hurried with violent temptations to cut his own throat; he made an attempt, but didn’t do it effectually. After this, he continued for a considerable time to be exceedingly overwhelmed with melancholy. But now, after a long time, he has been greatly delivered by the light of God’s countenance lifted up upon him, and has expressed a great sense of his sin in so far yielding to temptation. And there are in him all hopeful evidences of his having been made a subject of saving mercy.

In the latter part of May, it began to be greatly sensed that the Spirit of God was gradually withdrawing from us, and after this time Satan seemed to be more let loose, and raged in a dreadful manner. The first instance in which this appeared, was when a person put an end to his own life, by cutting his throat. He was a gentleman of more than common understanding, of strict morals, religious in his behavior, and a useful, honorable person in the town. But he was from a family who are exceedingly prone to the disease of melancholy, and his mother was killed with it. From the beginning of this extraordinary time, he had been exceedingly concerned about the state of his soul, and there were some things in his experience that appeared very hopeful. But he dared not entertain any hope concerning his own good estate. Towards the latter part of his time, he grew very discouraged. Melancholy quickly grew upon him, till he was wholly overpowered by it. He was, in great measure, past the capacity of receiving advice, or being reasoned with to any purpose. The devil took advantage, and drove him into despairing thoughts. He was kept awake nights, meditating in terror, so that he had scarcely any sleep at all for long periods of time. It was observable at last, that he was scarcely well capable of managing his ordinary business, and was judged delirious by the coroner’s inquest. The news of this extraordinarily affected the minds of people here, and struck them with astonishment. After this, multitudes in this and other towns seemed to have it strongly suggested to them, and pressed upon them, to do as this person had done. Many who seemed to be under no melancholy — even some pious people who had no special darkness or doubts about the goodness of their state, nor were under any special trouble or concern of mind about anything spiritual or temporal — yet had it urged upon them, as if somebody had said to them, Cut your own throat; now is a good opportunity. Now! Now! So that they were obliged to fight with all their might to resist it; yet no reason suggested to them why they should do it.

About the same time, there were two remarkable instances of people led away with strange enthusiastic delusions: one at Suffield, and another at South Hadley. What made the greatest noise in the country, was the instance of the man at South Hadley. His delusion was that he thought he was divinely instructed to direct a poor man in melancholy and despairing circumstances, to say certain words in prayer to God, as recorded in Psa 116.4, for his own relief. The man is esteemed a pious man. Since this error of his, I have had a particular acquaintance with him. I believe none who had such an acquaintance, would question his piety. He gave me a particular account of how he was deluded, which is too long to be inserted here. But in short, he was exceedingly rejoiced and elevated with this extraordinary work that was so carried on in this part of the country; and he was possessed with an opinion that it was the beginning of the glorious times of the church spoken of in Scripture. He had read it as the opinion of some divines, that there would be many in these times who would be endued with extraordinary gifts of the Holy Ghost. He had embraced the notion, though at first he had no apprehensions that any besides ministers would have such gifts. But he since exceedingly laments the dishonor that he has done to God, and the wound he has given religion in this, and has lain low before God and man for it.

After these things, the instances of conversion were rare here in comparison to what they had been before (though that remarkable instance of the little child was after this). The Spirit of God, after that time, appeared to very sensibly withdraw from all parts of the country (though we have heard of the work going on in some places of Connecticut, and that it continues to be carried on even to this day). But religion remained here, and I believe in some other places, and was the main subject of conversation for several months after this. There were some turns in which God’s work seemed to revive somewhat, and we were ready to hope that all was going to be renewed again. Yet in the main, there was a gradual decline of that general, engaged, lively spirit in religion, which had existed before.

Several things have happened since, that have diverting people’s minds, and turned their conversation more to other affairs, such as particularly his Excellency the Governor’s coming up, and the Committee of the General Court, concerning the treaty with the Indians, and afterwards the Springfield controversy. Since then, our people in this town have been engaged in building a new meeting-house; some other occurrences might be mentioned that seemed to have this effect.

But as to those who have been thought to be converted among us during this time, they generally seem to be people who have had an abiding change wrought upon them. I have had particular acquaintance with many of them since, and they generally appear to be people who have a new sense of things, new apprehensions and views of God, of the divine attributes, of Jesus Christ and the great things of the gospel. They have a new sense of the truth of them, and they affect them in a new way; though it is far from always being alike with them; nor can they revive a sense of things whenever they please. Their hearts are often touched, and sometimes filled with new sweetness and delights. There seems to be an inward ardor and a burning heart that they express, the like to which they never experienced before. Sometimes, this is occasioned only by the mention of Christ’s name, or one of the divine perfections. There are new appetites, and a new kind of breathing and panting of heart, and groanings that cannot be uttered. There is a new kind of inward labor and struggle of soul towards heaven and holiness.

Some who before were very rough in their temper and manners, seem to be remarkably softened and sweetened. And some have had their souls exceedingly filled and overwhelmed with light, love, and comfort, long since the work of God has ceased to be so remarkably carried on in a general way. Some have had much greater experiences of this nature than they had before. And there is still a great deal of religious conversation continued in the town among young and old. A religious disposition appears to still be maintained among our people, by their upholding frequent private religious meetings. And all sorts generally are worshipping God at such meetings, on Sabbath nights, and in the evening after our public lecture. Many children in the town still keep up such meetings among themselves. I don’t know of any young people in the town who have returned to their former ways of looseness and extravagancy in any respect. Rather, we still remain a reformed people, and God has evidently made us a new people.

I cannot say there has been no instance of any one person who has carried himself in such a way, that others would justly be stumbled concerning his profession. Nor am I so vain as to imagine that we have not been mistaken concerning any that we have entertained a good opinion of, or that there are none who pass among us for sheep, who are indeed wolves in sheep’s clothing — who may some time or other, reveal themselves by their fruits. We are not so pure that we have no great cause to be humbled and ashamed that we are so impure; nor are we so religious that those who watch for our stumbling may not see things in us from which they may take occasion to reproach us and religion. But in the main, there has been a great and marvellous work of conversion and sanctification among the people here, and they have paid all due respects to those who have been blessed by God to be the instruments of it. Both old and young have shown a forwardness to hearken not only to my counsels, but even to my reproofs from the pulpit.