Life’s earnest purpose.
There was no sharp dividing-line between worldliness and consecration of life in Elizabeth Gurney’s case. The work was very gradually accomplished; once started into earnest living, she discerned, what was all unseen before, a path to higher destinies. Standing on the ruins of her former dead self, she strove to attain to higher things. The instrument in this change was a travelling Friend from America—William Savery.
These travelling Friends are deputed, by the Quarterly Meetings to which they belong, to visit and minister among their own body. Their commission is endorsed by the Yearly Meeting of the Ministers and Elders of the Society, before the Friend can extend the journey beyond his own country. The objects of these visits are generally relating to benevolent and philanthropic works, or to the increase of religion among the members of the Society. Joseph John Gurney himself visited America and the Continent upon similar missions, and in some of his journeys was accompanied by his illustrious sister.
William Savery was expected to address the Meeting of Friends at Norwich, and most, if not all, of the Gurney family were present. Elizabeth had been very remiss in her attendance at meeting; any and every excuse, in addition to her, at times, really delicate health, served to hinder attendance, until her uncle gently but firmly urged the duty upon her. Thenceforward she went a little more frequently, but still was far from being a pattern worshipper; and it will be conceded that few, save spiritual worshippers, could with profit join in the grave silence, or enjoy the equally grave utterances of ordinary meeting. But William Savery was no ordinary man, and the young people at Earlham prepared to listen to him, in case he “felt moved” to speak, with no ordinary attention. Giving an account of this visit, Richenda Gurney admitted that they liked having Yearly Meeting Friends come to preach, for it produced a little change; from the same vivacious pen we have an account of that memorable service. Memorable it was, in that it became the starting-point of a new career to Elizabeth Gurney.
The seven sisters of the Earlham household all sat together during that eventful morning, in a row, under the gallery. Elizabeth was restless as a rule when at meeting, but something in the tone of William Savery’s voice arrested her attention, and before he had proceeded very far she began to weep. She continued to be agitated until the close of the meeting, when, making her way to her father, at the men’s side of the house, she requested his permission to dine at her uncle’s. William Savery was a guest there that day, and, although somewhat surprised at his daughter’s desire, Mr. Gurney consented to the request. To the surprise of all her friends Elizabeth attended meeting again in the afternoon, and on her return home in the carriage