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Elizabeth Prentiss

Elizabeth Prentiss

      Elizabeth Payson Prentiss was an author, well known for her hymn "More Love to Thee, O Christ" and the didactic story Stepping Heavenward (1869). She was born and raised in Portland, Maine, United States, the fifth of eight children (only six survived) of the eminent Congregationalist pastor Edward Payson. The influences of New England Christianity, consisting of the inherited Puritan foundation with added evangelistic, missional, and philanthropic elements, were evident in the Payson family.

      As a young woman, she published some of her children's stories and poems in "The Youth's Companion," a New England religious periodical. In 1838, she opened a small girls' school in her home and took up a Sabbath-school class as well. Two years later, she left for Richmond, VA, to be a department head at a girls' boarding school. In 1845, she married George Lewis Prentiss, a brother of her dear friend Anna Prentiss Stearns, to whom are addressed some of her warmest and most intimate letters. The Prentisses settled in New Bedford, MA, where George became pastor of South Trinitarian Church.

      Though she continually struggled with poor health, Mrs. Prentiss went on to have three children. After Rev. Prentiss resigned his charge in New York, the family went abroad to Europe for a couple of years, returned to New York (where Rev. Prentiss pastored the Church of the Covenant), and eventually settled in Dorset, VT, where Mrs. Prentiss would die in 1878 at the age of 60.

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The question is not whether you ever gave yourself to God, but whether you are His now.
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Our course heavenward is like the plan of the zealous pilgrim of old, who for every three steps forward, took one backward.
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But you will imagine that it is best that He should at once enable you to see clearly. If it is, you may be sure He will do it. He never makes mistakes. But He often deals far differently with His disciples. He lets them grope their way in the dark until they fully learn how blind they are, how helpless, how absolutely in need of Him. What His methods will be with you I cannot foretell. But you may be sure that He never works in an arbitrary way. He has a reason for everything He does. You may not understand why He leads you now in this way and now in that, but you may, nay, you must believe that perfection is stamped on His every act.
topics: god  
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She says I shall now have one mouth the more to fill and two feet the more to shoe, more disturbed nights, more laborious days, and less leisure or visiting, reading, music, and drawing. Well! This is one side of the story, to be sure, but I look at the other. Here is a sweet, fragrant mouth to kiss; here are two more feet to make music with their pattering about my nursery. Here is a soul to train for God; and the body in which it dwells is worth all it will cost, since it is the abode of a kingly tenant. I may see less of friends, but I have gained one dearer than them all, to whom, while I minister in Christ's name, I make a willing sacrifice of what little leisure for my own recreation my other darlings had left me. Yes, my precious baby, you are welcome to your mother's heart, welcome to her time, her strength, her health, her tenderest cares, to her lifelong prayers! Oh, how rich I am, how truly, how wondrously blest!
topics: blessings , children  
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This is the testimony of all the good books, sermons, hymns, and memoirs I read--that God's ways are infinitely perfect; that we are to love Him for what He is and therefore equally as much when He afflicts as when He prospers us; that there is no real happiness but in doing and suffering His will; and that this life is but a scene of probation through which we pass to the real life above.
topics: life , suffering  
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You cannot prove to yourself that you love God by examining your feelings toward Him. They are indefinite and they fluctuate. But just as far as you obey Him, just so far, depend upon it; you love Him. It is not natural to us sinful, ungrateful beings to prefer His pleasure to our own or to follow His way instead of our own way, and nothing, nothing but love of Him can or does make us obedient to Him.
topics: feelings , god , love , truth  
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There is no wilderness so dreary but that His love can illuminate it, no desolation so desolate but that He can sweeten it. I know what I am saying. It is no delusion. I believe the highest, purest happiness is known only to those who have learned Christ in sickrooms, in poverty, in racking suspense and anxiety, amid hardships, and at the open grave.
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Wondrous as it is, how simple is this mystery! To love Christ and to know that I love Him--this is all!
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People ask me how it happens that my children are all so promptly obedient and so happy. As if it chanced that some parents have such children or chanced that some have not! I am afraid it is only too true, as someone has remarked, that "this is the age of obedient parents!" What then will be the future of their children? How can they yield to God who have never been taught to yield to human authority? And how well fitted will they be to rule their own households who have never learned to rule themselves?
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Go home and say to yourself, ‘I am a wayward, foolish child. But He loves me! I have disobeyed and grieved Him ten thousand times. But He loves me! I have lost faith in some of my dearest friends and am very desolate. But He loves me! I do not love Him, I am even angry with Him! But He loves me!
topics: love-of-god  
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On the whole, there is nobody like one's own mother... I wonder if, after all, mothers are not the best friends there are!
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Nay then, but let me give to Him not what I value least, but what I prize and delight in most.
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A young girl's mother is her natural refuge in every perplexity.
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Yes, every act of obedience is an act of worship." he said. "But why don't we learn that sooner? Why do we waste our lives before we learn how to live?" "I am sure," he returned, "that we do not learn as fast as we are willing to learn. God does not force instruction upon us, but when we say as Luther did, 'More light, Lord, more light,' the light comes." I questioned myself after he had gone as to whether this could be true of me. Is there not in my heart some secret reluctance to know the truth lest that knowledge should call to a higher and a holier life than I have yet tried?
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...if God chooses quite another lot for you, you may be sure that He sees that you need something totally different from what you want.
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I see that if I would be happy in God, I must give Him all. And there is a wicked reluctance to do that. I want Him--but I want to have my own way, too. I want to walk humbly and softly before Him and I want to go where I shall be admired and applauded. To whom shall I yield? To God? Or to myself?
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They were living to themselves: self, with its hopes, and promises, and dreams, still had hold of them; but the Lord began to fulfill their prayers. They had asked for contrition, and He sent them sorrow; they had asked for purity, and He sent them thrilling anguish; they had asked to be meek, and He had broken their hearts; they has asked to be dead to the world, and He slew all their living hopes; they had asked to be made like unto Him, and He placed them in the furnace, sitting by "as a refiner of silver," till they should reflect His image; they had asked to lay hold of His cross, and when He had reached it out to them, it lacerated their hands. They had asked they knew not what, nor how; but He had taken them at their word, and granted them all their petitions. They were hardly willing to follow so far, or to draw so nigh to Him. They had upon them an awe and fear, as Jacob at Bethel, or Eliphaz in the night visions, or as the apostles when they thought they had seen the spirit, and knew not that it was Jesus. They could almost pray Him to depart from them, or to hide His awefulness. They found it easier to obey than to suffer--to do than to give up--to bear the cross than to hang upon it: but they cannot go back, for they have come too near the unseen cross, and its virtues have pierced too deeply within them. He is fulfilling to them his promise, "And I, if I be lifted up, will draw all men unto me. But now, at last, their turn is come. Before, they had only heard of the mystery, but now they feel it. He has fastened on them His look of love, as He did on Mary and Peter, and they cannot but choose to follow. Little by little, from time to time, by flitting gleams the mystery of His cross shines upon them. They behold Him lifted up--they gaze upon the glory which rays forth from the wound of His holy passion; and as they gaze, they advance, and are changed into His likeness, and His name shines out through them, for he dwells in them. They live alone with Him above, in unspeakable fellowship; willing to lack what others own, and to be unlike all, so that they are only like him. "Such are they in all ages who follow the Lamb whithersoever He goeth. Had they chosen for themselves, or their friends chosen for them, they would have chosen otherwise. They would have been brighter here, but less glorious in His kingdom. They would have had Lot's portion, not Abraham's. If they had halted anywhere--if He had taken off His hand, and let them stray back--what would they have lost? What forfeits in the morning of the resurrection? But He stayed them up, even against themselves. Many a time their foot had well-nigh slipped; but He, in mercy, held them up; now, even in this life, they know all he did was done well. It was good for them to suffer here, for they shall reign hereafter--to bear the cross below, for they shall wear the crown above; and that not their will but His was done on them.
topics: cross  
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...God notices the most trivial act, accepts the poorest, most threadbare little service, listens to the coldest, feeblest petition, and gathers up with parental fondness all our fragmentary desires and attempts at good works. Oh, if we could only begin to conceive how He loves us, what different creatures we should be!
topics: god , love  
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We only know ourselves and what we really are when the force of circumstances brings us out.
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I am amazed at the patience of my blessed Master and Teacher, but how I love His school!
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