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Memoir and Diary of John Yeardley, Minister of the Gospel online

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to induce a belief that I should be assisted to overcome that spirit of
opposition which has too long existed to the detriment of my best
interests, if there was only a willingness to abide under the forming
hand.

8 _mo_. 1. - I now feel freedom to give a short account how it was
with me under this concern from its commencement down to the present time.

I remember well, about the year 1804, when in my father's house at
Blacker, once being in my chamber, in a very serious, thoughtful frame of
mind, receiving an impression that if ever I came to receive the truth
which I was then convinced of, to my everlasting benefit, I should have
publicly to declare of the gracious dealings of Divine Goodness to my
soul. The impression passed away with this remark deeply imprinted in my
mind, that if ever a like concern should come to be matured, I should date
the first intimation of it from this time. I was apt to view it for a
long, time as the mere workings of the enemy on my mind, and when it has
come before my view, I have often secretly said, "Get thee behind me, I
will not be tempted with such a thing." By these means I put it from me,
as it were, by force, not thinking it worthy of notice and often praying
to be delivered from such a gross delusion. At other times it would come
with such, weight on my spirit, that I could not avoid shedding tears, and
acknowledging the power which accompanied the revival of so important a
matter; and was led to query, If there is no real intention of a heavenly
nature, why am I thus harassed? and O the fervent sincerity in which I
desired that the right thing might have place, and if it was wrong, that I
might be enabled to find a release in His time who had appointed the
conflict! And I do believe, could I then have come at a perfect
resignation to the divine will, I might have been brought forward in a way
which would have afforded permanent relief to my own mind; but such was my
dislike to the work, that I suffered myself to be lulled into a state of
unbelief as to the rectitude of the concern.

Thus many outward circumstances transpired, and some years passed over,
with my only viewing the matter at a distance, until He who first laid the
concern upon me was pleased to bring it more clearly home to me, and
seemed at times to engage his servants, both in public and private, to
speak very clearly to my condition. And although I had a concurring
testimony in my own mind to their declarations, yet I had always an excuse
to flee unto by secretly saying, It may be intended for some one else;
until the Most High was graciously pleased, by the services of his sincere
handmaids, Sarah Lamley and Ann Fairbank, in their family visits to
Friends of Barnsley, as mentioned last Fifth Month, to speak so clearly to
my situation in their private opportunity with us, as to leave no room for
excuse; but I was forced to acknowledge, Thou art the man. Indeed, Sarah
Lamley was led in such an extraordinary manner, that I had no doubt at all
but that she was favored with a clear and fall sense of my state. She
began by enumerating the many fears which attended the apostles in their
various situations; how that Satan had desired to have some of them that
he might sift them as wheat in a sieve; "but," added she, "I have prayed
for thee, Peter, that thy faith fail not, and when thou art converted
strengthen thy brethren." And how it was with Moses when the Almighty
appeared to him in a flame of fire in the bush, and that it was not until
the Most High had condescended to answer all Moses' excuses that he was
angry with him, and even then he condescended to let him have Aaron, his
brother, to go with him for a spokesman. Also how it was with Peter when
the threefold charge was given him to feed the lambs and the sheep. "It is
not enough," said she, "to acknowledge that we love the Lord, but there
must be a manifesting of our love by doing whatsoever he may command."
Methinks I still hear her voice, saying, "And O that there may not be a
pleading of excuses, Moses-like!" Thus was this valuable servant enabled
to speak to my comfort and encouragement, which I trust I shall ever
remember to advantage; but O that I may be resigned to wait the appointed
time in watchful humility, patience, and fear! for I find there is a
danger of seeking too much after outward confirmations, and not having the
attention sufficiently fixed on the great Minister of ministers, who alone
is both able and willing to direct the poor mind in this most important
concern, and in his own time to say, "Arise, shine; for thy light is
come."

12 _mo_. 22. - My poor mind has been so much enveloped in clouds of
thick darkness for months past, that I have sometimes been ready to
conclude I shall never live to see brighter days. Should even this be the
case I humbly hope ever to be preserved from accusing the just Judge of
the earth of having dealt hardly with me, but acknowledge to the last that
he has in mercy favored me abundantly with a portion of that light which
is said to shine brighter and brighter unto the perfect day.


We shall leave for the next chapter the relation of his first offerings in
the ministry, and conclude this with a striking passage which we find in
the Diary for this year.

John Yeardley was all his life very fond of the occupations of the garden.
A small piece of ground was attached to his house at Barnsley, which he
cultivated, and from which he was sometimes able to gather spiritual as
well as natural fruit.

Under date of the 22nd of the Seventh Month, he writes: -


A very sublime idea came suddenly over my mind when in the garden this
evening. It was introduced as I plucked a strawberry from a border on
which I had bestowed much cultivation before it would produce anything;
but now, thought I, this is a little like reaping the fruit of my labor.
As I thus ruminated on the produce of the strawberry-bank, I was struck
with the thought of endless _felicity_, and the sweet reward it would
produce for all our toils here below. My mind was instantly opened to such
a glorious scene of divine good that I felt a resignation of heart to give
up all for the enjoyment of [such a foretaste] of _endless felicity_.


CHAPTER II.


FROM HIS ENTRANCE ON THE MINISTRY IN 1815, TO HIS COMMISSION TO RESIDE IN
GERMANY IN 1820.

1815. - After the long season of depression through which John Yeardley
passed, as described in the last chapter, the new year of 1815 dawned with
brightness upon his mind. He now at length saw his spiritual bonds loosed;
and the extracts which follow describe his first offerings in the ministry
in a simple and affecting manner.


1 _mo._ 5. - The subject of the prophet's going down to the potter's
house opened so clearly on my mind in meeting this morning that I thought
I could almost have publicly declared it; but not feeling that weight and
certainty which I had apprehended should accompany the performance of such
an important act, I was afraid of imparting that to others which might be
intended only for my own instruction; and so it has ended for the present.
But I am thankful in hoping that I am come a little nearer to that state
of resignation which was so beautifully exemplified by our great Pattern
of all good, who when He desired the bitter cup might pass from Him,
nevertheless added, "Not my will, but thine be done." And if I am at all
acquainted with my inward feelings, I trust I can in some degree of
sincerity say that my heart desires to rejoice more in the progress of
this state of happy resignation, than at the increase of corn, wine, or
oil.


He first opened his mouth in religious testimony in the First Month of
this year. The occurrence seems to have taken place in his own family; it
yielded him a "precious sense of the Divine Presence." He began to preach
in public a few months later, but not without another struggle against the
heavenly impulse.

The friendship which Joseph Wood entertained for John Yeardley
strengthened with revolving years. When he visited Barnsley, he was
accustomed to lodge at his house; and writing to him in the year 1811,
about a public meeting which he felt concerned to hold, he says, "I can
with freedom write to thee, feeling that unity with thy spirit which
preserves us near and dear to each other, and in which freedom runs."

In the Fourth Month of this year, when Joseph Wood received a certificate
to visit some of the midland counties, J.Y. felt desirous "of setting him
a little on his way."


On the 14th, he says, we went to Woodhouse, where we had a meeting, and my
friend was enabled to speak very closely to the states of many present.
When in the meeting, I felt a very weighty exercise to attend my mind
with an intimation publicly to express it. But this exposure I dared not
yield to, under an apprehension that it might be wrong in me, considering
the occasion on which I had come out; but truly I left the place under a
burden which I was scarcely able to bear.


It was on the 20th of the Fourth Month that he began to speak in public as
a minister of the Gospel. He thus records the event: -


I felt myself in such a resigned frame of mind in our little week-day
meeting, that I could not doubt the time was fully come for me to be
relieved from that state of unspeakable oppression which my poor mind had
been held in for so many years past. Soon after I took my seat, my mind
became unusually calm, and the presence of the Most High seemed so to
abound in my heart and spread over the meeting, that after some inward
conflict I was unavoidably constrained publicly to express it, in nearly
the following words: "I think I have so sensibly felt the precious
influence of divine love to overshadow our little gathering, that I have
been ready to say, It is good for us to be here; or I might rather say, It
is good for us to feel ourselves under the precious influence of that
protecting power which can alone preserve us from the snares of death."
This first [public] act of submission to the divine will was done with as
much stability of mind and body as I was capable of; and I thought the
Friends present seemed sensible of my situation and sympathized with me
under the exercise. I trust the sweet peace which I afterwards felt was a
seal to my belief that I had been favored with divine compassion and
approbation in the needful time.


In the Fifth Month John Yeardley attended for the first time the Yearly
Meeting in London. He describes the business as very various and
instructive, but bewails his own condition as that of "one starving in the
midst of every good thing."


It seemed at times, he says, as though Satan himself was let loose upon
me, and permitted to try my faith and patience to the utmost; but I hope
the conflict had its use in teaching me to know that it is not by might,
nor by power, but by the Lord's Spirit, that we are enabled to prevail.


This was the commencement of another season of spiritual poverty. In
reading a few of his memoranda during this time, many a Christian
traveller may see his own mourning countenance reflected as in a glass.


11 _mo_. 8. - I have for a long time felt so depressed in spirit, and
so inwardly stripped of every appearance of good, that I have often
secretly had to say with tried Job, "O that I were as in months past, as
in the days when God preserved me!"

16_th_. - Death and darkness are still the covering of my poor mind,
and I am ashamed to acknowledge that I have for months past sat meeting
after meeting a victim to the baneful consequences of wandering thoughts,
scarcely being able to recollect myself so much as to ask excuse of Him
who sees in secret. In these times of deepest desertion I am selfish
enough to feel a longing desire for a ray of light or a smile from the
countenance of Him, under whose banner I have many times sat with the
greatest delight in days that are past.

O, how hard it is to regain divine favor when once sacrificed through the
sorrowful act of disobedience! O may I sit as in dust and ashes, and, with
the noble resignation and spirit of a true, dedicated follower, say, I
will patiently hear the indignation of the Lord, because I have sinned
against him!


Nevertheless, even in his times of deepest humiliation, moments of
heavenly comfort were interspersed.


11 _mo_. 23. - A more improved meeting than I had reason to hope from
cross occurrences, which are too apt to ruffle the unstable mind. Daring
our silent sitting together, I was comforted in contemplating the many
encouraging passages we have left on sacred record; two of which, spoken
by one of large experience, were particularly solacing to my exercised
feelings: "Many are the afflictions of the righteous, but the Lord
delivereth him out of them all;" and "The young lions do lack and suffer
hunger, but they that seek the Lord shall not want any good thing." O,
thought I, if we could only procure Him on our side who has the thoughts
of all men in his keeping, what should we have to fear! We should then be
brought to acknowledge that it behooves a Christian traveller to crave the
assistance of Him who can enable us to suffer with becoming fortitude and
resignation all the afflicting dispensations of life, rather than desire
to be preserved from meeting them.


The hard mutter which is the subject of the next extract embodies a
difficulty that has perplexed many. It is always encouraging to find
companionship in doubts and trials, and perhaps the consideration which
pacified the mind of John Yeardley may be helpful to some who are tried in
the same way. The passage, no doubt, has reference to his own want of
better success in business.


11 _mo._ 30. - When any circumstance in the common course of life,
which has appeared to turn up in the direction of Divine Providence, has
not answered my expectation, or on deliberate consideration it has not
seemed prudent for me to step into it, I have sometimes felt greatly
discouraged, and been ready to conclude, How could this thing be ordered
under the direction of best wisdom! But let me ever remember, He who has
his way in the whirlwind knows what is best for us; and were it not for
these incitements to an exercise of feeling, the mind would be apt to lie
dormant, and not be preserved alive in a proper state to prove all things
and hold fast that which is best.


About the end of the year he was obliged to spend several days in London
on business. The course of his affairs seems to have been uneven, and the
great city was probably uncongenial to his retired habits. He says: -


12 _mo_. 15. - I do not remember that my feelings were ever more
discouraging, both inwardly and outwardly. When the mind is ruffled about
the things of time, it is hard work to make any progress towards the land
of peace. I try to get to the well of water; but truly it may be said I
have nothing to draw with.


Yet even under these circumstances his daily religious practices - those
which no competitor for the meed of peace and the crown of glory can
dispense with - were not without avail.


16_th_. - In reading and retirement before I left my room, I received
a little hope that I should be preserved in a good degree of patience
through the cross occurrences of the day, which was measurably the case.


The life of a Christian is very much the history of outward and inward
trials. How happy it is when these serve only to deepen his experience!
The nature of John Yeardley's spiritual trials has been fully shown: his
temporal crosses have also been glanced at; they consisted mainly of want
of success in business, in which, indeed, he was little fitted to excel,
under the keen competition of modern times.


1816. 1 _mo_. 4. - A new year has commenced, but the old afflictions
are still continued, both inwardly and outwardly; for even in temporal
affairs disappointments rage high. But O what a privilege to sink down to
the anchor-hope of divine support! This is what I can feelingly
acknowledge this evening to be as a brook by the way to refresh my poor
and long-distressed mind. O, how ardently do I desire that this season of
adversity may be sanctified to me for everlasting good, and prove the
means of slaying that will in me, which has too long been opposed to the
will of Him who paid the ransom for my soul with nothing less than the
price of his own precious blood.


The difficulty of making his way in the commercial world increased until
the risk of "failure began to stare him in the face." The fear of such a
result sank him exceedingly low; but through all he was permitted to keep
his footing upon the rock, and to behold a spiritual blessing under the
guise of temporal adversity.


7_th_. - Surely it is a mark of divine favor to feel the supporting
hand of my heavenly Father underneath, to bear up my drooping spirits in
this time of adversity. I think I was never more sensible of his powerful
arm being made bare for my deliverance; and yet, unaccountable to tell, I
am almost afraid to trust in him. O, my soul, wherefore dost thou doubt,
when thou feelest the glorious presence of thy Redeemer's countenance to
shine upon thee?

In the meeting this morning, he continues, my mind was profitably
exercised in contemplating the following subject. When our dear Lord was
about to perform the miracle of feeding the multitude, he commanded them
to sit down upon the grass. They were undoubtedly hungry, and this might
create in them too great an anxiety to be satisfied in their own time; but
that all things might be done in order, and without interruption, they
were commanded to sit down and wait the disposal of their food from the
bountiful hand of their great Master. In looking at the subject, I thought
it a lively representation of the state of mind we ought to labor after,
when favored to feel hunger and thirst after righteousness; not
frustrating the design of the Most High by being too anxious to be filled
in our own will and way, but patiently waiting the time of Him who giveth
to all their meat in due season, and that which is most convenient for
them. And what greater privilege could we desire than to be fed at the
Lord's table?

9_th_. - As my precious wife and I were consoling each other this
evening, she remarked that the dispensation we were now suffering under
was probably in answer to our prayers. This brought strikingly to my
remembrance a secret petition which I have frequently put up in the most
fervent manner I have been capable of, when deeply lamenting my
unsubjected will; I have even cried out aloud, "O make me willing; do,
Lord, make me willing, make me willing!"

O then may I submit to the means, if for this end they are appointed, and
resign my all, body, soul and spirit, into the hands of Him who gave them;
and may I patiently endure the swelling of Jordan in a manner that will
enable me to bring from the bottom, stones of everlasting memorial.


After this he was led for a while by the Good Shepherd into the green
pastures and beside the still waters.


1_st mo_. 15. - Our Monthly Meeting at Wakefield, and a heavenly
meeting it was.

29_th_. - I left home for a journey into the north on business. I had
many precious seasons of retirement as I rode along, and I humbly trust my
soul has been enabled to cultivate a more intimate acquaintance with her
Beloved, in such a way as will not easily be erased from my remembrance.


Notwithstanding the deep and varied experience he had passed through, his
unwillingness to expose himself as a preacher of the gospel was still
strong, and sometimes obstructed the performance of his duty.


8 _mo_. 20. - Joseph Wood had a public meeting at Pilley. I felt
something on my spirit to communicate to the people in the early part, but
thinking the meeting was not sufficiently settled to receive it, I
reasoned away the right time; another did not offer during the whole
meeting for me to relieve my poor mind, so I brought my burden home with
me, which indeed proved such as I really thought I should have sunk under.


The "severe stripes," as he terms it, which he received on this occasion
at length produced a willing mind.


9 _mo_. 10. - I went with my dear wife to attend the burial of my
cousin Joseph Watts at Woodhouse, and was at the meeting there on
Fourth-day the 11th. It was largely attended by relations and friends. I
felt so sensibly the danger that some present were in of trifling away the
reproofs of conviction, that I could not forbear reviving the language
which was proclaimed to the Prophet Jonah, when he had fled from the
presence of the Lord and was fallen asleep in the ship, "What meanest
thou, O sleeper, arise, call upon thy God." After commenting a little on
the subject, I sat down under great solemnity which seemed to cover the
meeting, and I can thankfully say the fruit of obedience was sweet to my
taste.

12 _mo_. 1. - Went to meeting this morning with a fearful apprehension
lest I should have to expose myself in that which is so contrary to my
natural inclination. And so it proved; for I had not sat long, before I
was made willing to express what rested weightily on my mind, and that was
the case of Gideon, when the angel appeared to him under the oak as he
threshed wheat. I commented a little on the subject, which afforded me
great satisfaction and joy.


In the following entry, notwithstanding the tardy obedience which it
records, we find his commission as one of the Lord's watchmen sealed upon
his mind.


1817. 4 _mo_. 7. In meeting yesterday morning I was enabled publicly
to relieve myself of a little matter which had been a burden on my mind
for two or three meetings past, in which I had felt pretty smartly the rod
which, is held over the head of the disobedient. In this instance, human
nature seemed stubborn in a double degree, but after it was over I felt my
peace flow as a river. Methinks I now hear this language proclaimed in the
secret of my heart: I have made thee a watchman unto the house of Israel;
therefore hear the word at my mouth, and give them warning from me. O what
an important charge! May I duly consider the weight of it, and so watch
over my own conduct, in thought, word and action, that I may not be
pulling down with one hand that which I may be endeavoring to build up
with the other. If I am to be an instrument in the hand of the Almighty,
may he graciously condescend to prepare and sharpen the arrows he may see
meet to shoot through the medium of his poor servant, so that they may
sink deep, wound the hypocrite, and comfort the pure divine life in the
hearts of his children.


A few weeks after this, John Yeardley attended a remarkable meeting held
by Joseph Wood, in which they were made to sit in heavenly places in
Christ Jesus.


4 _mo_. 29. - I attended another public meeting appointed by J.W. at
Middletown, about ten miles from here. When I entered the town I felt very
flat, and was ready to say, The fear of the Lord is not in this place; but
after the meeting was gathered, I soon found what poor creatures we are,
to judge of these things without waiting for best direction; for I think
it was the most extraordinary time I ever knew. My friend bore a long and
powerful testimony, to the tendering of many present. If I ever forget it
while in my natural senses, I fear I shall be near losing my habitation
the truth; for it was as if heaven opened, and the Most High poured down
his blessed Spirit in an unbounded degree.


All this time his business affairs went on more and more adversely; and
although he never failed punctually to meet all his money engagements, his
want of success led in this year to a change of residence to Bentham.

Three months before he left Barnsley he writes: -


"Surely there is a vein for the silver, and a place for gold where they
fine it." Pecuniary difficulties seem as if they would eat up every green
thing; but I hope and trust that He who has often said, Peace, be still,
will so regulate the heat of the furnace that I may be able to bear it
with becoming patience, until there be nothing left in me but what
resembles the pure gold fit for the Master's use. When I reflect on what
my poor mind has passed through for more than two years past, I am
convinced nothing short of that Arm which brought the Israelites through
the Red Sea could have supported me. And O, should he ever loose my hands,
that I may serve Him freely, may I never forget the many covenants made
with Him who has so often heard and answered my prayer when in deep
distress!


Through the assistance of some of his Barnsley friends, an offer was made



Online LibraryJohn YeardleyMemoir and Diary of John Yeardley, Minister of the Gospel → online text (page 3 of 35)