John Woolman.

A journal of the life, gospel labours and Christian experiences, of that faithful minister of Jesus Christ, John Woolman : late of Mount Holly, in the province of New Jersey online

. (page 13 of 16)
Online LibraryJohn WoolmanA journal of the life, gospel labours and Christian experiences, of that faithful minister of Jesus Christ, John Woolman : late of Mount Holly, in the province of New Jersey → online text (page 13 of 16)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

seeking to the Lord for counsel herein ; — that of my
joining in the sale aforesaid, came heavily upon
me ; and my mind, for a time, was covered with

198 John WooImaTt's Journal.

darkness^ and sorrow ; and under this sore afflic-
tion, my heart was softened to receive instruction.
And here I first saw, that as I had been one of the
two executors who had sold this lad for nine years
longer than is common for our own children to
serve, so I should now offer a part of my substance
to redeem the last half of that nine years. But as
the time was not yet come, I executed a bond,
binding me and my executors to pay to the man
he was sold to, what to candid men might appear
equitable, for the last four years and a half of his
time, in case the said youth should be living, and
in a condition likely to provide comfortably for

The 9th day of the loth month, 1769. My
heart hath often been deeply affected under a feel-
ing I have had, that the standard of pure right-
eousness, is not lifted up to the people by us, as a
society, in that clearness which it might have
been, had we been so faithful to the teachings of
Christ, as we ought to have been. And as my
mind hath been inward to the Lord, the purity of
Christ's government hath been opened in my un-
derstanding: and under this exercise, that of
Friends being active in civil society, in putting
laws in force which are not agreeable to the purity
of righteousness, hath for several years past been
an increasing burden upon me; having felt, in
the openings of universal love, that where a peo-.
pie convinced of the truth of the inward teachings
of Christ, are active in putting laws in execution

yohn WoolmarC s J^ournal. 199

which are not consistent with pure wisdom, it hath
a necessary tendency to bring dimness over their
minds. And as my heart hath been thus exer-
cised, and a tender sympathy in me toward my
fellow members, I have, within a few months past,
in several meetings for discipline, expressed my
concern on this subject.


Under some indisposition, his body, by abstinence, much
weakened ; and his mind, at that time, exercised for the
good of the people in the West Indies. — His afterwards
communicating to Friends his being resigned to visit some
of these Islands. — The state of his mind, and the close
considerations he was led into, while under this exercise.
— His preparations to embark, and his considerations on
the trade to these Islands ; and his being, when the vessel
was ready to sail, released from the concern he had been
under, — His religious engagements after his return home.
— His sickness, in which he was brought to a very low
state ; and the prospects he then had.

The 1 2th day of the 3rd month, 1770. Having
for some years past dieted myself on accomit of a
lump gathering on my nose, and under this diet
grown weak in body, and not of ability to travel
by land as heretofore ; — I was, at times, favoured
to look with awfulness toward the Lord, before
whom are all my ways, who alone hath the power
of life and death ; and to feel thankfulness raised
in me for this his fatherly chastisement ; believing,
if I was truly humbled under it, all would work
for good.

While I was under this bodily weakness, my
mind being at times exercised for the good of my
fellow-creatures in the West Indies, I grew jealous
over myself, lest the disagreeableness of the pros-
pect should hinder me from obediently attending
thereto. For though I knew not that the Lord
required me to go there ; yet I believed that res-

John Woolman's Journal. 201

ignation was now called for in that respect : and
feeling a danger of not being wholly devoted to
him, I was frequently engaged to watch unto
prayer, that I might be preserved. And upwards
of a year having passed, I walked one day in a
solitary wood, my mind being covered with awful-
ness, when cries were raised in me to my merciful
Father, that he would graciously keep me in faith-
fulness : and it then settled on my mind as a duty,
to open my condition to Friends at our monthly
meeting; which I did soon after, as follows:

An exercise hath attended me for some time
past, and of late been more weighty upon me;
under which, I believe it is required of me to be
resigned to go on a visit to some part of the West
Indies. And in the Quarterly and general Spring
meeting, I found no clearness to express anything
further, than that I believed resignation herein
was required of me ; and having obtained certifi-
cates from all said meetings, I felt like a sojourner
at my outward habitation, kept free from worldly
encumbrances, and was often bowed in spirit be-
fore the Lord, with inward breathings to him that
I might be rightly directed.

And I may here note, that what I have before
related of my being, when young, joined as an
executor with another Friend, in executing the
will of the deceased, our having sold a negro lad
till he might attain the age of thirty years, was
now the occasion of great sorrow to me. And
after having settled m?a'tters relating to this youth,

202 John WoolmatC s J ournal.

I provided a sea store and bed, and things for the
voyage ; and hearing of a vessel likely to sail from
Philadelphia for Barbadoes, I spake with one of
the owners at Burlington, and soon after went to
Philadelphia on purpose to speak with him again :
at which time he told me there was a Friend in
town who was part owner of the said vessel ; but
I felt no inclination at that time to speak with
him, but returned home. And a while after, I
took leave of my family, and went to Philadel-
phia, where I had some weighty conversation with
the first-mentioned owner, and showed him a
writing, as follows :

25th of nth month, 1769. As an exercise,
with respect to a visit to Barbadoes, hath been
weighty on my mind, I may express some of the
trials which have attended me : under these trials
I have, at times, rejoiced, in that I have felt my
own self-will subjected.

I once, some years ago, retailed rum, sugar, and
molasses, the fruits of the labour of slaves; but
then had not much concern about them, save only
that the rum might be used in moderation; nor
was this concern so weightily attended to, as I
now believe it ought to have been. But of late
years, being further informed respecting the op-
pressions too generally exercised in these islands,
and thinking often on the degrees that are in con-
nexions of interest and fellowship with the works
of darkness, Ephes. v. 11, and feeling an increas-
ing concern to be wholly given up to the leadings

J^ohn Woohnan' s Journal. 203

of the Holy Spirit, — it hath appeared, that the
small gain I got by this branch of trade, should
be applied in promoting righteousness on the
earth. And near the first motion toward a visit
to Barbadoes, I believed the outward substance I
possess should be applied in paying my passage,
if I go, and providing things, in a lowly way, for
my subsistence. But when the time drew near in
which I believed it required of me to be in readi-
ness, a difficulty arose, which hath been a contin-
ued trial for some months past ; under which I have,
with abasement of mind, from day to day, sought
the Lord for instruction ; and often had a feeling of
the condition of one formerly, who bewailed him-
self, for that the Lord hid his face from him.

During these exercises, my heart hath been often
contrite ; and I have had a tender feeling of the
temptations of my fellow-creatures, labouring un-
der those expensive, customs distinguishable from
the simplicity that there is in Christ, 2 Cor. ii. 3,
and sometimes in the renewings of gospel love,
have been helped to minister to others.

That which hath so closely engaged my mind,
in seeking to the Lord for instruction is, — whether,
after so full information of the oppression the
slaves in the West Indies lie under, who raise the
West India produce (as I had in reading a caution
and warning to Great Britain and her colonies,
wrote by Anthony Benezet), it is right for me to
take a passage in a vessel employed in the West
India trade ?

204 jFohn WoolmarC s journal.

To trade freely with oppressors, and without
labouring to dissuade from such unkind treatment,
seek for gain by such traffic, — I believe tends to
make them more easy respecting their conduct
than they would be, if the cause of universal right-
eousness was humbly and firmly attended to by
those in general with whom they have commerce ;
and that complaint of the Lord by his prophet, -
*'They have strengthened the hands of the
wicked," hath very often revived in my mind.
And I may add here some circumstances preced-
ing any prospect of a visit there.

The case of David hath often been before me
of late years. He longed for some water in a well
beyond an army of Philistines who were at war
with Israel; and some of his men, to please him,
ventured their lives in passing through this army,
and brought that water. It doth not appear that
the Israelites were then scarce of water, but rather,
that David gave way to delicacy of taste: but,
having thought on the danger these men were ex-
posed to, he considered this water as their blood,
and his heart smote him that he could not drink
it, but poured it out to the Lord. And the op-
pression of the slaves, which I have seen in sev-
eral journies southward, on this continent, and the
report of their treatment in the West Indies, hath
deeply affected me ; and a care to live in the spirit
of peace, and minister just cause of offence to
none of my fellow-creatures, hath, from time to
time, livingly revived on my mind : and under

yohn Woohnan's your7ial. 205

this exercise, I, for some years past, declined to
gratify my palate with those sugars.

I do not censure my brethren in these things;
but believe the Father of mercies, to whom all
mankind by creation are equally related, hath
heard the groans of these oppressed people ; and
is preparing some to have a tender feeling of their
condition. And the trading in, or frequent use
of any produce known to be raised by the labours
of those who are under such lamentable oppres-
sion, hath appeared to be a subject which may yet
more require the serious consideration of the
humble followers of Christ, the prince of peace.

After long and mournful exercise, I am now
free to mention how things have opened in my
mind, with desires that if it may please the Lord
to further open his will to any of his children in
this matter, they may faithfully follow him in such
further manifestation.

The number of those who decline the customary
use of the West India produce, on account of the
hard usage of the slaves who raise it, appears
small, even amongst people truly pious ; and the
labours in christian love, on that subject, of those
who do, not very extensive.

Were the trade from this continent to the West
Indies to be quite stopped at once, I believe many
there would suffer for want of bread.

Did we on this continent, and the inhabitants
of the West Indies generally, dwell in pure right-
eousness, I believe a small trade between us might

2o6 yohn WoolmarC s yournal. .

be right : that under these considerations, when
the thoughts of wholly declining the use of trad-
ing vessels, and of trying to hire a vessel to go
under ballast have arose in my mind, I have be-
lieved that the labours in gospel love, yet bestowed
in the cause of universal righteousness, are not
arrived to that height.

If the trade to the West Indies were no more
than was consistent with pure wisdom, I believe
the passage -money would, for good reasons, be
higher than it is now. And here, under deep
exercise of mind, I have believed that I should
not take the advantage of this great trade and
small passage-money ; but as a testimony in favour
of less trading, should pay more than is common
for others to pay, if I go at this time.

The first-mentioned owner having read the
paper, expressed a willingness to go with me to
the other owner ; and we going, the said other
owner read over the paper, and we had some solid
conversation ; under which, I felt my soul bowed
in reverence before the Most High. And, at
length, one of them asked me if I would go and
see the vessel ; but I had not clearness in my mind
to go, but went to my lodgings, and retired in

I was now under great exercise of mind ; and
my tears were poured out before the Lord, with
inward cries that he would graciously help me
under these trials.

John Woolman^ s JournaL 207

In this case, I believe my mind was resigned,
but did not feel clearness to proceed; and my
own weakness, and the necessity of Divine in-
struction, was impressed upon me.

I was, for a time, as one who knew not what to
do, and was tossed as in a tempest ; under which
affliction, thedoctnne of Christ, ''take no thought
for the morrow," arose livingly before me. I
remembered it was some days before they expected
the vessel to sail, and was favoured to get into a
good degree of stillness. And, having been near
two days in town, I believed my obedience to my
heavenly Father consisted in returning homeward.
I then went over amongst Friends on the Jersey
shore, and tarried till the morning on which they
had appointed to sail : and as I lay in bed the
latter part of that night, my mind was comforted;
and I felt what I esteemed a fresh confirmation,
that it was the Lord's will that I should pass
through some further exercises near home.

So I went home, and still felt like a sojourner
with my family : and in the fresh spring of pure
love, had some labours in a private way amongst
Friends, on a subject relating to Truth's testi-
mony; under which I had frequently been exer-
cised in heart for some years. I remember, as I
walked on the road under this exercise, that pas-
sage in Ezekiel came fresh before me : ''Whither-
soever their faces were turned, thither they went :"
and I was graciously helped to discharge my duty
in the fear and dread of the Almighty.

2o8 ji^ohn Woolma?t^s J^ournal.

After a few weeks, it pleased the Lord to visit
me with a pleurisy ; and after I had lain a few
days, and felt the disorder very grievous, I was
thoughtful how it might end.

I had of late, through various exercises, been
much weaned from the pleasant things of this life;
and I now thought, if it was the Lord's will to
put an end to my labours, and graciously receive
me into the arms of his mercy, death would be
acceptable to me : but if it was his will further to
refine me under affliction, and make me in any
degree useful in his church, I desired not to die.
I may with thankfulness say, that in this case I
felt resignedness wrought in me, and had no in-
clination to send for a doctor ; believing, if it was
the Lord's will, through outward means, to raise
me up, some sympathizing friends would be sent
to minister to me ; which were accordingly. But
though I was carefully attended, yet the disorder
was at times so heavy, that I had no thoughts of
recovery. One night, in particular, my bodily
distress was great ; my feet grew cold, and cold
increased up my legs toward my body; and at
that time I had no inclination to ask my nurse to
apply anything warm to my feet, expecting my
end was near. And after I had lain near ten hours
in this condition, I closed my eyes, thinking
whether I might now be delivered out of the
body : but in these awful moments, my mind was
livingly opened to behold the church ; and strong
engagements were begotten in me for the ever-

yohn Woolman^s yournaL 209

lasting well-being of my fellow-creatures ; and I
felt, in the spring of pure love, that I might
remain some time longer in the body, in filling
up, according to my measure, that which remains
of the afflictions of Christ, and in labouring for
the good of the church : after which, I requested
my nurse to apply warmth to my feet; and I
revived. And the next night, feeling a weighty
exercise of spirit, and having a solid Friend sit-
ting up with me, I requested him to write what I
said \ which he did, as follows :

''4th day of the ist month, 1770, about five in
the morning. — I have seen in the light of the Lord,
that the day is approaching, when the man that is
the most wise in human policy, shall be the great-
est fool ; and the arm that is mighty to support
injustice, shall be broken to pieces. The enemies
of righteousness shall make a terrible rattle, and
shall mightily torment one another ; for He that
is omnipotent is rising up to judgment, and will
plead the cause of the oppressed; and he com-
manded me to open the vision."

Near a week after this, feeling my mind livingly
opened, I sent for a neigbour, who, at my request,
wrote as follows :

^'The place of prayer is a. precious habitation;
for I now saw that the prayers of the saints was
precious incense : and a trumpet was given me,
that I might sound forth this language ; that the
children might hear it, and be invited to gather
to this precious habitation, where the prayers of

2IO jFohn WoolmarC s J^ournaL

the saints, as precious incense, ariseth up before
the throne of God and the Lamb — I saw this
habitation to be safe ; to be inwardly quiet, when
there were great stirrings and commotions in the

*' Prayer, at this day, in pure resignation, is a
precious place. The trumpet is sounded, the call
goes forth to the church, that she gather to the
place of pure inward prayer ; and her habitation
is safe."


His preparing to visit Friends in England — His embarking
at Chester, in company with Samuel Emlen, in a ship
bound for London — His deep exercise, on observing the
difficulties and hardships the common sailors are exposed
to— Considerations on the dangers to -udiich youth are ex-
posed, in being trained to a sea faring life ; and its in-
consistency with a pious education — His thoughts in a
storm at sea ; with many instructive contemplations on
the voyage — And his arrival at London.

Having been some time under a religious con-
cern to prepare for crossing the seas, in order to
visit Friends in the northern parts of England,
and more particularly in Yorkshire ; after weighty
consideration, I thought it expedient to inform
Friends thereof, at our monthly meeting at Bur-
lington, who, having unity with me therein, gave
me a certificate ; and I afterwards communicated
the same at our Quarterly Meeting, and they like-
wise certified their concurrence therewith. Some
time after which, at the general Spring meeting of
ministers and elders, I thought it my duty to ac-
quaint them of the religious exercise which at-
tended my mind ; with which they likewise sig-
nified their unity by a certificate, dated the 24th
day of the 3d month, 1772, directed to Friends
in Great Britain.

In the 4th month following, I thought the time
was come for me to make some inquiry for a suit-
able conveyance ; being apprehensive, that as my


212 John Woolmar^ s y ournal.

concern was principally towards the northern
parts of England, it would be most proper to go
in ♦a vessel bound to Liverpool or Whitehaven.
And while I was at Philadelphia, deliberating on
this occasion, I was informed that my beloved
friend Samuel Emlen, Jr., intended to go to Lon-
don, had taken a passage for himself in the cabin
of the ship called Mary and Elizabeth, of which
James Sparks was master, and John Head of the
city of Philadelphia, one of the owners; and I
feeling a draft in my mind toward the steerage of
the same ship, went first and opened to Samuel
the feeling I had concerning it.

My beloved friend wept when I spake to him,
and appeared glad that I had thoughts of going
in the vessel with him, though my prospect was
toward the steerage. And he offering to go with
me, we went on board ; first, into the cabin, a
commodious room, and then into the steerage;
where we sat down on a chest, the sailors being
busy about us : then the owner of the ship came
and sat down with us.

Here my mind was turned toward Christ, the
heavenly counsellor ; and feeling at this time my
own will subjected, my heart was contrite before

A motion was made by the owner to go and sit
in the cabin, as a place more retired ; but I felt
easy to leave the ship, and made no agreement as
to a passage in her ; but told the owner, if I took
a passage in the ship, I believed it would be in

John Woolman' s J oiirnal. 213

the steerage ; but did not say much as to my ,ex-
ercise in that case.

After I went to my lodgings, and the case was
a little known in town, a friend laid before me the
great inconveniences attending a passage in the
steerage ; which, for a time, appeared very discour-
aging to me.

I soon after went to bed, and my mind was un-"
der a deep exercise before the Lord, whose help-
ing hand was manifested to me as I slept that
night, and his love strengthened my heart. And
in the morning, I went with two friends on
board the vessel again : and after a short time
spent therein, I went with Samuel Emlen to the
house of the owner; to whom, in the hearing of
Samuel only, I opened my exercise, in substance
as follows, in relation to a scruple I felt with re-
gard to a passage in, the cabin.

I told the owner that on the outside of that part
of the ship where the cabin was, I observed sun-
dry sorts of carved work and imagery ; and that
in the cabin I observed some superfluity of work-
manship of several sorts ; and that according to
the ways of men's reckoning, the sum of money
to be paid for a passage in that apartment, hath
some relation to the expense in furnishing it to
please the minds of such who -give way to a con-
formity to this world ; and that in this case, as in
other cases, the monies received from the passen-
gers are calculated to answer every expense relat-
ing to their passage, and amongst the rest, of these

214 John WoolmarC s J ournal.

superfluities ; — and that in this case, I felt a scruple
with regard to paying my money to defray such

As my mind was now opened, I told the owner
that I had at several times in my travels, seen
great oppressions on this continent ; at which my
heart had been much affected, and brought into a
feeling of the state of the sufferers. And having
many times been engaged, in the fear and love of
God, to labour with those under whom the op-
pressed have been borne down and afflicted, I
have often perceived that it was with a view to
get riches, and provide estates for children to live
conformable to customs, which stand in that spirit
wherein men have regard to the honours of this
world ; — that in the pursuit of these things, I had
seen many entangled in the spirit of oppression ;
and the exercise of my soul had been such, that I
could not find peace in joining with anything
which I saw was against that wisdom which is

After this, I agreed for a passage in the steerage.
And hearing in town that Joseph White had a
desire to see me, I felt the reviving of a desire to
see him, and went then to his house, and next day
home ; where I tarried two nights. Then early in
the morning I parted with my family, under a
sense of the humbling hand of God upon me;
and going to Philadelphia, had opportunity with
several of my beloved friends, who appeared to be
concerned for me, on account of the unpleasant

John WoobjiarC s y ournal. 215

situation of that part of the vessel where I was
likely to lodge.

In these opportunities, my mind, through the
mercies ot God, was kept low, in an inward wait-
ing for his help: and Friends having expressed
their desire that I might have a place more con-
venient than the steerage, did not urge, but ap-
peared disposed to leave me to the Lord.

Having stayed two nights in Philadelphia, I
went the next day to Darby monthly meeting;
where, through the strength of Divine love, my
heart was enlarged toward the youth then present j
under which I was helped to labour in some ten-
derness of spirit. Then lodging at William Horn's,
I with one friend went to Chester ; where meeting
with Samuel Emlen, we went on board the ist day
of the 5th month, 1772 : and as I sat down alone
on a seat on the deck, I felt a satisfactory evidence
that my proceedings were not in my own will, but
under the power of the cross of Christ.

7th day of the 5th month. Have had rough
weather mostly since I came on board ; and the
passengers, James Reynolds, John Till-Adams,
Sarah Logan and her hired maid, and John Bisp-
ham, all sea-sick, more or less, at times; from
which sickness, through the tender mercies of my

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 13 15 16

Online LibraryJohn WoolmanA journal of the life, gospel labours and Christian experiences, of that faithful minister of Jesus Christ, John Woolman : late of Mount Holly, in the province of New Jersey → online text (page 13 of 16)