CHAPTER II. Call to a Missionary Life

Her interest early awakened – Consecration to this work – Mental exercises concerning it – Engagement to go to Siam – Journey to New England – Catskill mountains – Social character – Feelings in view of leaving America – Preparations – Marriage

I cannot rest; there comes a strange
And secret whisper to my spirit, like
A dream of night, which tells me I am on
Enchanted ground.
The voice of my departed Lord,
‘GO TEACH ALL NATIONS,’ from the eastern world
Comes on the night air and awake my ear.

Some time in the autumn of 1830, Rev. Sheldon Dibble, then on the eve of his departure for the Sandwich Islands mission, came to Clinton to pay a farewell visit to his friends. He had a conversation with the subject of his sketch, in which he set forth the wants, the woes, and the claims of the heathen. This effected her deeply, and led her to make a half resolve that, should her heart be renewed by devine grace, she would devote herself to the service of God as a missionary.

During the early part of her stay at Manlius, she consecrated herself deliberately and prayerfully to the work of missions; believing that if the Lord accepted the consecration, he would open the way for the execution of her purpose. This purpose was communicated in letters to her relatives, and confidentially to a few intimate friends. Respecting this period of her life, we find some records from her own pen.

Manlius, June 17, 1832. “The question has frequently been put to me lately, ‘Do you not think of being a missionary?’ I do think of it, but God the searcher of hearts knows my motives. I am sensible that I have not that ardent piety which should actuate me.

July 1. “Still, the thought of going to a heathen land is upper-most in my soul. Why this desire? Is it the work of the Lord? or is it a device of my own heart, to turn my mind from present duty? Send me, O my Saviour, where thou wouldst have me go.

August, Sabbath. “Why do I think it my especial duty to go to the heathen? If I am wrong in the conclusion at which I have arrived, I pray that I may be undeceived and prevented from going. The first and great qualification of a missionary should be ardent and devoted piety. In this I feel that I come far short of what should be the standard. I know that I rejoice in the prosperity of Zion, but I do not labor for her upbuilding here as I might; and should I, were I far away from here? I do not expect to leave behind me my sinful heart, and it is not the expectation that I shall be exempt from temptation that influences me. A missionary must be able to endure self-denial. Can I leave father, mother, brothers, and friends? If I love these more than Christ, I feel that they will not be sources of enjoyment to me.

Aug. 25, Sabbath. “Cholera is the theme of every tongue, but my heart is in the missionary cause. I knew not that my love to my friends was so strong. Oh, my mother, I know that thy heart is wrung. Give up thine only daughter! Shall strangers watch around thy sick-bed, and take the place that would be occupied by her? The Lord will watch over thee and protect thee. Yes, I can commit to him father, mother, brothers, and all friends. I would make but one request to them all: Lord, make them thine by adoption.

Sept. 13. “Since I have made known to a few persons my determination to become a missionary, those few so often speak in praise of the spirit which actuates the missionary, that I tremble. They know not the sins of my heart. If the feeling that attends me is a missionary spirit, I am convinced that it ill deserves the merit that is attached to it.

Nov. 18. “During the past week, the question has come to me, ‘Will you go and teach a female school in Bombay?’ The letter was received on Thursday evening. This was what I had been longing for; but when the question came, I felt a shrinking of nature. I looked upon my friends and said to myself, Can I leave every friend that I now hold dear? I went to two or three persons and conversed with them upon the subject, but obtained no light. In the solitude of my chamber I found a piece and calm in spreading the case before my Saviour. It is my prevailing feeling that it is my duty to accept this call.

Dec. 2. “The great question is now decided, that I do not go at this time. This week, a precious letter came from Mrs. Garrett, saying that the ship is to sail in seven days. I prayed that circumstances should be made so plain that I could not mistake the direction of God; and they were so made. I have a firm conviction that I can leave all at the call of Providence, and spend my life in a heathen country. Even so, Father; whenever though shall call me, I willingly resign all.”

Among the friends who were aware of Miss Royce’s intention to become a missionary, was a gentleman in correspondence with Dr. D. B. Bradley, who was then in New York, and designing to devote his life to labors in a foreign fields. Through this gentleman, Dr. Bradley became acquainted with the subject of this memoir, and a new direction was thus given to her future life.

“Clinton, April 30, 1833. A note announced the arrival of one to whose visit I could not but look forward with anxiety. I have been and am still willing to commit the subject entirely to the Lord. How it will terminate he only knows, and I wish him only to decide.

May 2. “I trust that God will direct me. I love to reflect upon all his dealings with me; to trace his finger in the slightest circumstances of my life; to view the important bearing of those circumstances, and ascribe it all to God. I rejoice that I am entirely in his hands, I would be nowhere else. O that not only the events of my life may be over-ruled by the Almighty,but that my heart may be so cleansed from the pollution of sin, and filled with the blessed Spirit, that even my thoughts shall not be my own, but thine entirely.

May 4. “I have but one petition: Lord, direct. If I make this petition constantly and fervently, I believe I shall be directed.

May 9. “Rose early this morning, and after a precious season in my room, commenced the labors of the day with much energy. About ten, a letter was brought me which could not but excite deep emotion. The question now comes, Will you go to a heathen land soon? At the church conference this afternoon, the chapter under consideration was the twelfth of Romans, and as Dr. Norton dwelt upon the first verse, every word went to my heart. I hope that I am willing to present myself a ‘living sacrifice,’ and wish I could add, holy and acceptable to the Lord. Friends and all the joy of friendship are sweet to my soul; but even these I willingly resign, if it be my Saviour’s will; and if they are left at his call, I know that I shall receive a hundred-fold in this world, though in it I may have great tribulation.

May 11. “The events of this day will have an important bearing upon my future life. I have this day decided that I would go to south-eastern Asia. I believe that I have acted conscientiously.

May 12. “I feel grateful to my God for all his mercies. It does not now seem that I can ever distrust him. It has been months since I could look upon any course and feel a certainty that I was in the path of duty. Sometimes for a few days I would feel some degree of decision as to what I ought to do; but some unforeseen event would show me that such a decision was erroneous. I have been like a land-bird upon the ocean, tired of fluttering above it, and ready to settle down upon any shrub that might appear on the surface, but ever finding such a support failing before I had rested upon it. Now the Lord has seemed to point me plainly to a decision.

May 18. “I do wish to serve Christ on earth. I can rejoice in tribulation if it will bring me nearer to him. I have never received severe affliction at his hand; but slight crosses and disappointments are good for me. I would desire that in my death I may have the support of the promises of the gospel; that I may feel that I as a pardoned sinner. I expect not my friends to stand around me and perform those ‘sad offices affection loves so well.’ It may be my lot to stretch myself in unattended agony beneath the cocoa’s shade, or put my own finger on my failing eye, for want of a friendly hand to do it. But it matters not, if I secure that Friend who will grant me a convoy of angels to convey my soul to ‘Abraham’s bosom.’ Grant me to live and die to Thee, I ask no more.

May 19. “A severe headache has kept me from the third service. As I have sat in my room and looked upon the quiet scene–the wheat field, the old apple-tree, the trees planted by my grandfather, promising a comfortable shade in a few years–I could not but feel and at the thought that this is probably the last season that the scenes of home will delight me: other scenes await me; the notes of other birds will fall upon my ear, more melodious, but not half so sweet to me. I am sad at the thought, yet I would not have it otherwise; I have voluntarily, and in view of my duty, given myself to the Lord, and I would not go back.”

Mr. W—-, of Manlius, a much-esteemed friend, invited her to take a seat in his carriage, in a journey to New England, and thence to New York city. This invitation was agreeable to her, especially as she has never travelled in that direction. The company consisted of Mr. W—- and his sister, and a daughter who had been a scholar of Miss Royce in Manlius. The elder of these ladies was in a state of deep melancholy, bordering upon derangement, and the journey was made chiefly with the hope of dispelling this gloom. In memoranda of this journey, Miss Royce says:

June 12. “We are approaching the Catskill mountains: may I draw nearer to the mount of prayer. I would not have this journey merely for my own profit, but may I be enabled to accomplish that for which I left my home, namely, to become an instrument in dispelling the gloom which has settled upon the mind of my beloved friend.

June 13. “On our arrival at the Mountain House, we found, much to our satisfaction, that there was no company. The day has been very smoky, but not withstanding this, we could discern far below us the Hudson rolling its waters onward to the ocean, and bearing on its bosom many a white-sailed sloop, while now and then a steam-boat proudly forced its own way along. Beyond were fields and woods, hills and dales; while in the dim distances could be discerned the blue hills of Vermont, Massachusetts, and Connecticut, though hardly to be distinguished from the azure canopy of the heavens. As we looked over the edge of the precipice, we saw the cultivated fields of the farmer, promising him a rich harvest, pasture of lowing cattle, etc. After gazing upon this landscape till our eyes were wearied, but not satisfied, we returned to retrace our way down the steep. A narrow carriage path led us aside to view the celebrated Pine Orchard lake, a clear and placid sheet of water.

June 15. “The ride, the air, the country, and more than all, our own feeling, have contributed to render the day very pleasant. Miss W—-has been cheerful, and tried to enjoy what we enjoyed. For this I am thankful. I have felt my heart rise in gratitude to God for this unexpected pleasure……I have had much interesting conversation with Miss W—-. She appears better than I have seen her before; she spoke for the first time with pleasure of my being with her, and wished that I might be instrumental in the hands of God of her recovery.

June 16, Sabbath. “My heart is full. I would this day delight myself in the Lord. I can pour out my heart before him with confidence. He is indeed making my cup of blessing to run over. How unworthy of his temporal blessings, and how infinitely unworthy of his love. Is not his banner over us love? I would for ever rejoice that I am in his hands, that my friends are in his hands, that the world is in his hands, that he desires the extension of the kingdom of Christ infinitely more than do any of his sinful children. Let me not by my vain and wicked and wicked thoughts drive from my breast the Holy Spirit —- that heavenly Dove.

Clinton, July 12, 1833. “This day I am twenty-two years old. The account of those years is sealed up to the judgment. What have I done in them for myself, for the world, and for God? For myself, I have studied and stored my mind with some portion of knowledge, but my heart has been sadly neglected; for almost twenty years I was an open rebel against the government of God. For my fellow-beings, I have taught and delighted to teach them worldly science. I have tried to point my pupils to the only path of happiness and duty, but it has been so coldly that I fear the seed will never take root. He only who is able to bring light out of darkness, can cause it to germinate.”

At this period of her life, religion was so far a prevailing principle, as to influence her decision in all important matters; and yet it did not obliterate that propensity to mirthfulness so strongly in- herent in her nature. This propensity was not manifested in loud talking and boisterous laughter; not did her vain of humor ever lead her to what is indecorous. It was in general displayed around the domestic fireside, yet not frequently enlivened the social circles. It did not fall like an overwhelming torrent, but stole gently upon the soul, enkindling a correspondent feeling in others. Though predisposed to mirthfulness, she was not volatile; she loved and strictly regarded the Sabbath and its duties; she valued that moat precious of the Christian’s privileges, communion with God, both in secret and in the social gathering; she loved the interests and wept over the sufferings of mankind, especially the benighted who grope their way destitute of the light of life; and for these she had resolved to leave the home and country she loved.

September 6, she writes, “I love dearly to see my friends, still, so much company as I have is not profitable to my soul. Tomorrow I meet my young friends; shall I lead them on in folly, as I too often do?” A few days later she says, “We have been entirely occupied with company. I do love my friends dearly, but so many visits as we receive are very detrimental to growth in grace, and a great hinderance to the accomplishment of temporal duties.”

Miss Royce being somewhat near-sighted, writes, Sept. 27, “This morning I put on A.E.P—-‘s concave glasses, and I felt as if I were in a new world. I ran upstairs to look at the hill, and could not for-bear shedding tears at the thought of how little I have heretofore seen. Persons, houses, fruits, leaves, that usually were totally confused, were all, as if touched by the hand of magic, suddenly placed in order, and every outline traced distinctly. I ran through the hall, which I had supposed was tolerably clean, and found the carpet was far otherwise. I must have a pair, that I may see the beauties of this beautiful world, and learn to adore its Author with greater fervency. I was really giddy with delight, and for hours I could think of nothing but how happy I shall be when I get my new eyes.”

The next days she says, “I have been disappointed in one particular, and mortified in another. This is good for me. I do believe that I am to receive whatever my heavenly Father may see fit to send upon me as his chastisements, without repining. I would hope that afflictions may break this flinty heart, and I earnestly desire that it may be broken for sin.”

On the day of a church fast she writes, “I find it difficult to look away from the grievous errors and sins which I discover in others, to my own heart. I thank the Lord for this day; I have long desired such a one, but did not feel that I could under existing circumstances appropriate any day to such a purpose. May I so improve this season that my spiritual strength shall be renewed, that my soul may be completely humbled and filled with love to my Saviour.

Nov. 12. “How the Lord directed the wandering of Israel! Even so

‘Let the fiery, cloud pillar
Guide me all my journey through.’

When he would bring me to the sea, hem me in between the mountains, and hedge me up before my enemies, then may I remember to ‘stand still, and see the salvation of God.’

Nov. 16. “Read in Scott the advice of Jethro to Moses, and admire the manner in which it was received. I fell that I am deficient in listening to advice; deficient did I say? I am more. Help me, O my Saviour, to copy the meekness of this eminent servant of the Lord.

Nov. 24, Sabbath. Professor North preached to us today. His text P.M. was Isa. 1:2. The first sermon I ever heard and trult loved was from this text. I can never forget that hour while reason remains. It was an hour in which I saw the glory of God as I have never since seen it. At that time I vowed to dedicate myself to my God in whatever way he should appoint. I would praise him that he has permitted me to hope for an entrance into such a glorious field as that opened in the heathen world. I must fight the good fight against the spiritual enemies with more decision. I must war continually; when, O when shall I conquer?

Nov. 27. “Read Buchanan most of the evening. Have waded through the details of Fort William College, and am now tripping over the plain of Juggernaut. He says that at one view he did not see more than two or three hundred thousand of the worshippers of the idol. Will such a number of the worshippers of the Lamb ever assemble at one temple to worship him in spirit and in truth? Faith says, Yes.

Dec. 5. “Thanksgiving. Psa 102:2: ‘Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits.’ These words I of all persons should adopt as my own. I have much, very much for which to bless the Lord upon the return of this day of public thanksgiving. My life, my health have been preserved; and every temporal want has been supplied. The kind hand of Provindence has kept me in the bosom of my own family, until the return of this day; he has permitted me to renew, so to speak, an acquaintance with my parents and brothers, among whom for many years I have been merely an occasional sojourner. This strengthening of the cords of natural affection will make me feel more acutely the blow which will soon sunder them. Did I say sunder? I trust that we shall find these cords elastic, and that when I am called to leave all, they will lengthen, but not break. My dear aunt Sophia has been with us the past sum- mer. I have been permitted to enjoy her society, and I would bless my God for it. Might I look forward to the future, I would say that probably another year will find me forever separated from those friends who now surround me. Yes, I shall have bid a final farewell to them all.

Dec. 22. “Gave M. A—-a lesson, but was obliged to shorten it through faintness. Went to my room, and was glad to rest. I trust that my thoughts upon my bed were not unprofitable.”

During the year previous to her marriage, Miss Royce devoted much time to a course of theological reading: the sacred Scriptures with a commentary, Dwight’s Theology, and other standard volumes calculated to enkindle a clear, steady, permanent light in the soul, and to prepare her to become a dispenser of that light in the dark places of the earth. She pursued this course of reading with much assiduity, and was so scrupulous in it, that when she was induced two or three times to take up the “Life of Josephine,” and read a while, she reproached herself. This severe application, together with efforts in preparation for her great prospective enterprise, and perhaps more than both, her services voluntarily rendered in the domestic department, seriously impaired her health.

Dec. 24. “Have read aloud three hours this evening in Keith. O how abundant the evidence of the truth of the sacred Scriptures afforded in the fulfilment of prophecy. I had supposed that the prophecies were in general strong in bold figures, but I find them to be literal denunications of the wrath of God against the workers of iniquity. Heard my father read tonight in the prophecy of Ezekiel with renewed interest.

Dec. 28. “Read as usual, and was immediately after surprised by a call from my dear Manlius pastor, Rev. Mr. Smith. O how precious the privilege of talking with that man. He inquired if I were not making my reading too much a feast of the intellect rather than the soul.

Jan. 16, 1834. “Have read with much pleasure, and I hope profit, in ‘Dwight’ this evening. Often My. Smith’s inquiry whether I spiritually improve my reading occurs to me. As I read tonight, felt some faint desires that my pride and vanity and every evil might be rooted out of my heart.

March 5. “I have read with much interest Dwight upon the incarnation of our Saviour. O that what I read may effect my heart, my life.

March 6. “The Lord has heard my prayer, and this morning’s mail brought me the much wished for letter. I doubted not as it was handed to me that I should at least be relieved from suspense; still, it was with a trembling hand and beating heart that I opened it. From it I learned that we shall probably be called to sail early in the summer. Much as I had desired such an arrangement, yet at the thought that a few months would for ever separate me from my parents, brothers, grandfather, and aunts, nature would weep. Still, I would not shrink; no, rather do I rejoice that I am counted worthy to suffer this trial for my Master.

April 13. “I know not that there is any subject that I am more at a loss upon, than how much it is proper to indulge in mirth. When my spirits are drooping, nothing raises them so quickly as a hearty laugh; when my mind is wearied or distracted, nothing so quickly restores its tone as a good jeu d’esprit. But is it right? If I knew, I would follow, or at least endeavor to follow in the right path. Thursday I spent at Mr. Johnson’s and met President Dwight and Professor Wayland. It is well that I know that it is not E.R.—, but the prospective missionary that excites an interest in those who see me.

May 7. “W.G—-called, and has been performing that most difficult of Christian duties, reproving me for numerous repetitions of my besetting sin. Would that I had many such friends, who would freely and frankly tell me when they see me go astray. He seems afraid that I shall think he is disposed to fault-finding; but if he could see my heart, he would know that I love him the more for it. He spoke of seeing me sail. I should have great reason to be thankful if one friend from Clinton could accompany me to the ship. My Saviour, let me not go hence except thy presence go with me.”

D.B. Bradley, M.D., and Miss Emelie Royce were united in marriage in the church at Clinton, on the evening of June 5, 1834, by Rev H.H. Kellogg. President North preached a sermon on the occasion from the words, “And when he had thus spoken, he kneeled down, and prayed with them all. And they all wept sore, and fell on Paul’s neck, and kicked him, sorrowing most of all for words which he spake, that they should see his face no more. And they accompanied him unto the ship.” Acts 20:36-38

The six succeeding days were spent in a hurried visit to friends and relatives in Manlius, Marcellus, Auburn, Rochester, Penn Yan, and some other places. Early in the afternoon of June 18, Dr. and Mrs. Bradley bade adieu to her home and friends in Clinton. They sailed from Boston for Siam July 2, under the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions.

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