31: Concerning My Keeping My Elder Brother’s Sheep

Abington, between 11 and 12, after a good meeting at Oxford [Frankford in Philadelphia County], where were six males and four contra [females?].

Dear Friends,

I remember about forty years ago I kept my elder brother’s sheep. And the pretty lambs and their dams would be quietly, sweetly, and prettily feeding together: a very beautiful and comely sight to see. But if a stranger—my Friends—the stranger came near with his dog (the dog sucks the blood which is the life of the sheep) and if this dog fell a-barking, yawling, or howling among the Sheep and the pretty, pretty dear lambs, immediately they leave their feeding and run for their dear lives. So they would be scattered and scattered,  although there was or might be a great flock of them together.

Sometimes, I must confess, I have been a little careless and sleepy like some other shepherds, and then the sheep would go wandering about over hedge and ditch, and get into my neighbor’s corn and do mischief. And then it was very hard for me to get them out of the corn and into order again. Sometimes it would cost me many tears before I could get them into order again. Sometimes if the sheep and lambs were not gathered before night, in the night in the dark the dog would come and bite many of them, and suck their blood, and some he would kill. So then that would be a grief to the owner, and a reproach to the shepherd.

So, my very dear Friends, you that are the right true shepherds, that love the sheep more than all things in this world, you can very easily make an application, for it is your life and delight to take care of your Father’s sheep and his lambs especially, and are grieved when the dog—the dog, the bloodsucker—does but bark and hinder them from feeding. I know what I write: blessed be the name of the good and great Shepherd forevermore, who laid down his life for his sheep and lambs.

My dear faithful Friends, you are much esteemed by me. And your unity in the Father in his kingdom, which is his church, is much more defined by me than all things in this world, I can truly say. It has been much in my mind for a considerable time to lay before you my concern for having some of our ancient, worthy Friends’ epistles of warning, reproof, caution, and advice to ministers collected and reprinted—apprehending it may be of some service to have a collection of such as I have mentioned, or such as you shall think will be of most service. I earnestly desire and entreat to have your advice and counsel. For I know right well that in the multitude of counsel there is safety, especially with them dear Friends that know the Truth and are faithful. These are the best counselors in the whole world. I am your brother and friend in the blessed Truth.