CHAPTER I. Childhood and Early Years.

Her birthplace – Natural character – Early religious exercises – Hopeful conversion – Statement of a friend – Two years as a teacher in Manlius

“Pleasant and precious is a living friend:
More precious still, the sweet remembrance
Of buried love.”

Emelie, daughter of Phineas and Deborah Royce, was born in the village of Clinton, Oneida county, N.Y., July 12, 1811. In her childhood, she manifested fine native talents, and was amiable, docile, and vivacious. Early place in a school of high order, she pursued a systematic and thorough course of study, including natural, mathematical, and intellectual science.

At the age of fourteen, she was invited into the family of her grandfather, the late Samuel Royce of Clinton, which was her home while she remained in America, and for the last three years of that period was also the residence of her parents, both families being united in one. An invalid friend here demanding her sympathy and care, she happily evinced the spirit of kindness and patient endurance in attentions to her–not permitting them it interrupt her course of study, or to check the vivacity and flow of humor for which she was distinguished. The perusal and study of the Scriptures, which constituted a part of her school duties, ever interested her, and from a child her feelings were frequently and deeply impressed on the subject of religion; yet it was not until some time in January, 1931, when she had reached the age of nineteen, that her heart was united to the Saviour in an indissoluble union.

In a history of her own religious exercises, from early childhood to the period of her conversion, dated Manlius, N.Y., June 26, 1831, she says:

“I cannot remember the time when the thought of death, judgment, and eternity did not produce a sinking of soul. But though well convinced that I must be lost unless I complied with the requisitions of the gospel, still I likes them not. When seven years old, a little girl of six, with whom I had been intimate, was suddenly cut off by dropsy in the brain. When I heard that she was really dead, it effected me much; but the impressions were soon effaced.

“I do not recollect that I had any special strivings of the Spirit till the winter after I was thirteen. At that time the Spirit was poured out abundantly upon the school of which I was a member. Many of my companions were converted, both older and younger than myself, some of whom are now gone to stand before the Judge of the quick and dead. The Spirit, I believe, strove with me, but I hardened my heart.

“In May, 1826, when I was nearly fifteen, the Spirit of the Lord again appeared in the midst of us. I attended meetings for social prayer in our large household, and all the public religious services. Sometimes the idea of eternal death would terrify me; but generally all that was said to me would rebound from my hard heart, which remained untouched. Often I tried to bring myself to promise that I would yield to Christ within a certain time, but it seemed as if I had no power. It was like attempting to move a mountain. I distinctly remember sitting alone in the school-room and asking myself the question, ‘Can my heart endure or my hands be strong in the day when the Lord shall deal with me?’ But I had a desperate feeling that I could as easily abide the consequences of death in impenitence as repent. Why was I not left to that choice? Why did not the Lord take me at my word? Time rolled on. I often felt that the day of grace was past; and at such times I would say to myself, Take all the pleasure possible in the world, for you will have none in another. I did not fly to the gayeties of life, for I always found them unsatisfying; but usually pursued my studies with greater ardor. Yet the thought that for every talent I must give an account, damped all my pleasure. Christians had but little conversation with me. Thos that know me, felt that I understood my duty, and that it was useless to say anything to me.

“In September last, a large share of the labor and responsibility of the school providentially devolved upon me. Aunt Sophia left at that time for the far West, on account of her health. She had given me all necessary instruction with regard to the school. I felt my responsibility, and felt too that I cannot pray for those who were partially under my care. As she left me, she took my hand, and said, ‘Emelie, I hope that before I see you again you will be a Christian.’ How small, I thought, is the ground for hope that this will be the case! School continued five weeks, during which I felt more than usual upon the subject of religion. My friends commenced conversing with me upon this subject. To one, I promised that I would read a portion of Scripture daily. I did so, usually opening my Bible and reading where it happened. It seemed that I never opened it in this manner but to a warning of my guilt and danger. Preaching appeared unusually plain. During the winter the meetings became more and more solemn, and I put myself in the way of religious influences continually. Christians felt much for my case; they saw that I had fought long, and trembled lest I should have my own way. Satan had desired to have me. I could hear the thunders of Sinsi with less emotion than the duty of submission to Christ. It seems, as I look back upon my feelings at that time, that the idea of eternal death was less terrible to me than life through a Saviour. Is it not strange that I had not my choice? Day after day, and night after night I refused the warnings, calls, invitations and even entreaties that met me in every step. At times I would say, ‘It’ is too late; the Spirit has left me.’ Once I promised that I would yield my heart to Christ that night. I went home, fell upon my knees, with my Bible before me, and there remained until two o’clock in the morning, when I arose and sunk to sleep with an unhumbled heart.

“My friends were faithful with me, and finally I freely told them my feelings. Satan’s kingdom in my heart from that moment trembled. The dumb spirit was cast out. Those about me were more alarmed than ever, for though they has seen the proud exterior, they knew not the temptations that beset me. I could not tell the thousand evil suggestions that were every moment before my mind; when driven from one, I fled to another. At a meeting one Sabbath night, Dr. G—-came and conversed with me. He asked me what was in the way–why I did not give myself to the Saviour. I said I knew not; it was not the riches, honors, or pleasures of this world, for after what had passed I could not enjoy them. He entreated me, even if I did not value my own soul, to seek an interest in Christ for the sake of my influence on others. I again came to the resolution that I would pray till I received a blessing. I spent all the time I could upon my knees, crying like Bartimeus, that the son of David would have mercy upon me while he was passing by. The strong man armed was keeping his palace in my heart, and I could only entreat a stronger than he to come upon him, and take from him all his armor wherein he trusted.

“At night I felt a calmness which had been a stranger to my breast for months; indeed, it was such as I never experienced before. I could acquiesce in the government of God. The opposition of my heart was gone. Light did not break in upon me suddenly; but as I read the thirty-sixth chapter of Ezekiel, I could see grace and beauty in the way of salvation. The Lord there promises to give a clean heart to the children of Israel for his own name’s sake; and I was willing to receive one on that account. On the Sabbath, Dr. Norton preached upon the rebellion of the human heart. I could see my picture drawn in the plainest colors. I saw that the Lord was glorious in his long delay; there was not a single thing in his government I would alter. The judgment had been one of the stumbling-blocks in my way, but I could then see that it would be for the glory of God, and even rejoice in it, though I felt that that day would unfold a dark catalogue of sins, that were known only to the all-seeing eye of Jehovah.”

Concerning these events, one who was then her most familiar friend writes, “My acquaintance with her was during that most interesting period of her life, in which she gave her heart to her Redeemer and myself to the work of missions in a foreign land. I well remember with what earnestness, during a most precious revival of religion, she sought an interest in the Saviour of sinners; while many hearts, with feelings scarcely less intense that her own, were pouring out their earnest prayers to God for her salvation. And never can I forget with what sorrow and anxiety depicted on her countenance, she left the little circle of Christian friends, to whom her affectionate heart had clung in vain for help, feeling that they could not reach her case; and after a few hours’ seclusion in her room, alone with Him with whom she had to do, she returned to unite her voice with theirs in supplication and praise, and poured forth her soul in strain that told to rejoicing hearts that the contest with her Maker was ended. From that hour, so long as I knew her, it seemed to me evident that Jesus was enthroned in her heart as the supreme ruler of her affections and her life. From her meekness and gentleness, her chaste and subdued spirit, her conscientious discharges of duty, I subsequently had opportunities of learning many lessons of heavenly wisdom.”

The succeeding spring, 1831, she accepted an invitation tendered to her by several leading gentleman of Manlius, Onondaga county, to teach a school of young ladies in that place. There she remained two years, usefully and satisfactorily employed. One distinguishing characteristic of her teaching was the power of awakening thought in her pupils, and giving expression to that thought in conversation. The same power was afterwards manifested in the training of her children. The estimation in which she was held at Manlius was indicated by the attention she received upon her return, after temporary absence; being visited not only by her pupils, and persons of her own age, but also by others advanced in life and in high standing.

Reproduced from: A Sketch of The Life and Character of Mrs. Emelie Royce Bradley, Ten Years a Missionary in Siam by Nancy Royce c.1865. Please notify of any transcription inaccuracies to DigitalBangkokRecorder