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Computational Analysis, Author Attribution, and the Cheap Repository Tracts of the 18th Century

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Babay - A True Story of a Good Negro Woma

A True Story of a Good Negro Woman

A Lieutenant of a Regiment in a garrison at St. Christopher’s died, and left his son an orphan. A particular family had promised him on his death-bed to take care of his boy, but he was wholly abandoned, and forced to keep among the negro children, and live on such scraps as he could find.

In this state, he caught that loathsome disease called the Yaws, which became a new reason for giving him up to his fate.

In this condition Babay, a poor negroe woman, found him, took him to her hut, and got him cured, and divided what food she had with him, till he was able to work for himself. The first money that he earned, went to purchase her freedom.

He was prosperous in the world, and took her home to his house, and as long as he lived afterwards, which might be upwards of forty years, treated her with the most respectful kindness. He gave her a very expensive burial, and had a funeral sermon preached over he. As this sermon was delivered before people acquainted with her character, and mentioned such circumstances as I wish here to remark, I shall give an extract of what was addressed to the slaves that attended her.

“This good woman was like many of you a slave, and as such laboured under every disadvantage, which you can plead, for not doing her duty; yet, in this situation, she shewed in her conduct the noblest fruits of religion and charity; a helpless child, left an orphan in a strange country, far from relations, or even acquaintance to his family, abandoned by those who undertook to raise him, from her alone could raise pity, or engage attention, when left by all of his own rank and colour, to perish in a loathsome disease, though son to a servant of the Public, with whom every true lover of his Country should have sympathized. She alone lodged him, nursed him carefully, got him cured, and put him into a way to provide for himself.

Take notice this woman was a Christian, and you will cease to wonder. This instance of generosity found in one of her condition, is a proof that noble and great actions are not, as many think, confined to advantages of birth and education, for she had nothing to direct her but GOD’s grace working on a tractable heart, and this benevolent temper, shewed itself in every part of her behavior through life, and was accompanied in her, with a true sense of religion; or to speak more truly, she was charitable because she was religious.

She was well instructed in what she ought to know, and believe, and always actual upon those Christian principles she professed to believe. She always spoke on religious subjects, with an earnestness, seriousness, and knowledge, which I wish were more general than I have found them among her betters; here then, is a shining example of goodness, on your own level for your imitation. “If ye know these things, happy are ye if ye do them.


O Blest religion, heav'nly fair!
Thy kind, thy healing pow'r ;
Can sweeten pain, and soften care,
And gild each gloomy hour.

Tis THOU can'st make the heathen bless’d,
And make their darkness light;
Cheer'd by thy blessings see them rise,
To hope, to life, and light.

Tis THOU can'st sooth their troubled soul,
In slavery, woe, and pain;
And Afric’s Sons with grateful joy,
Thy sacred peace shall gain!

When dismal thoughts, and boding fears,
The trembling heart, invade;
And all the face of nature wears,
A universal shade:

THY sacred dictates can assuage,
The tempest of the soul;
And ev’ry fear shall lose its rage,
At Thy divine control

Thro’ life’s bewilder’d darksome way,
Thy hand unerring leads;
And o’er the path, thy heav’nly ray
A cheering lustre shed.

When feeble reason, tir’d and blind,
Sinks helpless and afraid;
THOU blest supporter of the mind,
How pow’rful is thy aid!

O let my heart confess THY pow’r,
And find THY sweet relief;
To brighten ev’ry gloomy hour;
And soften ev’ry grief.


Some years ago an English Gentleman, had occasion to be in North America, where, among other adventures the following circumstance occurred to him, which is related in his own words.

Every day's observation convinces me that the children of God, viz. those who believe in him, obey him, and on such terms are accepted by him through Jesus. Christ, are made so by his own especial grace and power inclining them to what is, good, and assisting them when they endeavour to be and to continue so.

“In one of my excursions, while I was in the province of New York, I was walking by myself over a considerable plantation, amused with its husbandry, and comparing it with that of my own country, till I came within a little distance of a middle aged negro, who was tilling the ground. I felt a strong inclination to converse with him. After asking him some little questions about his work, which he answered very sensibly, I wished him to tell me, whether his state of slavery was not disagreeable to him, and whether he would not gladly exchange it for his liberty?” “Massah,” said he, looking seriously upon me, “I have wife and children; my massah takes care of them, and I have no care to provide any thing; I have a good massah, who teach me to read; and I read good book, and that makes me happy.”

“I am glad,” replied I, “to hear you say so; and pray what is the good book you read?” “The Bible, massah, God’s own good book.” “Do you understand, friend, as well as read this book? For many can read the words well, who get hold of the true and good sense.” “O massah,” says he, “I read the book much before I understand; but at last I found things in the book which made me very uneasy.” “Aye,” said I, “and what things were they?” “Why, massah, I found that I was a sinner, Massah, a very great sinner, I feared that God would destroy me, because I was wicked and done nothing as I should do. God was holy, and I was very vile and naughty; so I could have nothing from him but fire and brimstone in hell, if I continued in this state.” In short, he fully convinced me that he was throughly sensible of his errors, and he told me what scriptures came to his mind, which he had read, that both probed him to the bottom of his sinful heart, and were made the means of light and comfort to his soul. I then inquired of him, what ministry or means he made use of, and found that his master was a Quaker, a plain sort of man, who had taught his slaves to read, and had thus afforded him some means of obtaining religious knowledge, though he had not ever conversed with this negro upon the state of his soul. I asked him likewise, how he got comfort under all his trials? “O massah,” said he, “it was God gave me comfort by his word. He bade me come unto him, and he would give me rest, for I was very weary and heavy laden.” And here he went through a line of the most striking texts in the bible, shewing me, by his artless comment upon them as he went along, what great things God had done in the course of some years for his soul. Being rather more acquainted with doctrinal truths, and the analogy of the bible, than he had been, or in his situation could easily be; I had a mind to try how far the inclining grace of God, encouraged by a willing, diligent, and obedient mind, had produced that knowledge necessary to salvation. I therefore asked him several questions about his notions of sin, the nature and power of God’s grace, and the insufficiency of his works alone, however necessary when joined with a reliance on Jesus Christ. His artless unaffected language, his mild yet expressive discourse, discovered a heavenly disposed mind, and perfectly charmed me. On the other hand, my entering into all the satisfactions he had described, together with an account to him, which he had never heard before, and thus and thus God in his mercy dealt with all his children, and had dealt with me, drew streams of joyful tears down his black face, so that we looked upon each other, and talked with that glow of Christian affection, that made me more than ever believe, what I have often too thoughtlessly professed to believe, the communion of saints, viz. that sympathy of heart and soul which unites and endears good people to each other. I shall never forget, how the poor excellent creature seemed to hang upon my lips, and to eat my very words, when I enlarged upon the bounty and tender mercy of God, the frequent and delightful sense he gives of his presence by the refreshings of a quiet conscience, and the composure of a tranquil mind; the faith he bestows in his promises to those who labour to obtain it, and use what means are afforded them for that purpose the victories this faith enables them to get over trials and temptations, the joy and peace in thus believing the hope in life and death, and the glorious expectation of immortality (of being raised from the dead, to die no more.) To have taken off his eager, delighted, animated air and manne, would have been a master-piece for a painter. He had never heard such discourse, nor found the opportunity of hearing it before he seemed like a man who had been thrown into a new world, and at length had found a company. Though my conversation lasted at least two or three hours, i scarce ever enjoyed the happy swiftness of time so sweetly in all my life. We knew not how to part. He would accompany me as far as he might; and I felt, for my part, such a delight to the artless, solid, unaffected, sensible talk of this good soul, that I could have been glad to see him often then, or to see his like at any time now. But my situation rendered this impossible. I therefore took an affectionate adieu, with a kindness equal to the most ancient friendship, telling him that neither the colour of his body, nor the condition of his present life, could prevent him from being my brother in our common father; that though we must part now, never to see each other again any more in this world, I had no doubt of our having another joyful meeting in our Father’s home, where we should live together, and love one another throughout a long and happy eternity. “Amen, Amen my dear massah; God bless you, and poor me too, for ever and ever.” If I had been an angel from heaven, he could not have received me with more evident delight than he did; nor could I have considered him with more regard, if he had been a long known Christian of the good old sort, grown up into my affections in the course of many years.”

This story shews us that GOD despises not labourers on account of their poverty, or Negroes on account of their colour.

It shews us that religion, and that only will make a man content and comfortable in the lowest situations.

It testifies the value of the BIBLE, which appears to have been the means of doing so much service to this poor negro, by the grace of God assisting his diligent application to it.

Perhaps it may serve to fill us English Men with shame when we reflect, that with all our great and superior advantages, our knowledge and obedience are far from being equal to what seems to have been the case with this poor, but virtuous negro.


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