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William Evans.

The Friends' library: comprising journals, doctrinal treatieses, & other writings of members of the religious Society of Freinds online

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what was above all, was the presence of my
dear Redeemer, enabling me to do what little
service he was pleased to require: with which,
I had reason to believe Friends had good unity.
This was cause of humble thankfulness to the
God of my life, who continues to regard the
dust of Zion, and to satisfy her poor with
bread. O my soul, mayst thou ever fear,
and walk reverently beibre Him who is the
diead of nations !

" I returned pretty directly from this meet-
ing to Bristol, with the reward of sweet peace
for this little service. After staying there
some months, I had a letter from my uncle
John Pry, requesting I would come to Sutton,
where he resided, which I did."



CHAPTER IL

ViiiU Ommberlmnd-^Westem e€UiUie9^Jir$i en/-
gaged in • famhf vi$U-^oe9 to the snsn'f
sieetti^ at Laoingto n • e xe r cieee and relirf,,
iott& rs^l0efiofis - «destA of a young ckild^ a re^
Is<fo»— tfccoun^ of meetinge in WilttMre.

It appears by the foregoing relation, that
Sarah Stephenson first appeared as a public
minister in Worcester in the year 1767, and
in the twenty*ninth year of her age. She
was then a member of the Monthly Meeting
of Hardahaw, in Lancashire, of which Liver-
pool meeting forms a part ; but she was re-
commended the same year, by a certificate of
removal, with her mother, to the Monthly
Meeting of Chippenham, in Wiltshire, in the
compass of which was Sutton Benger, the
residence of her uncle John Fry. Of this
Monthly Meeting she had not been long a
menter, before she applied for its concur-
rence in a service which lay before her. This
was doobHess bar first application of the kind,



and the meeting, adverting to what may be
called the infancy of her ministry, certified
that she had lately appeared in a short but
lively testimony ; that she was in good unity,
and that her life and conversation corres-
ponded with her appearance and profession.
The certificate, which was granted in the
third month, 1768, was addressed to Friends
of Worcester, or elsewhere, yet she has not
left an account of her visit to them, but re-
lates the other part of her errand, nearly in
the following words :

*Mn the spring, 1768, my mind was strongly
impressed with a sense of duty, to visit the
meetings in Cumberland, my native county.
Accordingly I set forward and got safe to
Lancaster, and thence to Carlisle, where the
Yearly Meeting, for the Northern counties,
was held. I had the company of my dear
cousin William Dillworth, Sarah Taylor of
Manchester, and Esther Tuke of York. The
latter intended after the Yearly Meeting was
over, to- visit the meetings in the county; and,
being informed of my prospect, kindly took
me under her wing, and was indeed a tender
mother in the truth. After her return home,
she wrote me an instructive and affectionate
letter, signifying she felt the want of my com-
pany after I had left her. This tended to
strengthen my mind in humble hope that my
moving was in His counsel, who leaveth not
his little striplings, as they confide in him
alone, and keep under his holy government.
I returned pretty directly home, with sweet
peace of mind.*'

In the year 1769, she attended the Yesrly
Meeting, and visited meetings in Essex. She
met there with tender sympathizing Friends ;
but says, the greatest of all fhvours was that
of having the company of the Ancient of
Days, who was mercifully near to help, and
afforded strength to answer his own requir-
ings.

"In 1770, I visited, she continues, the
counties of Somerset^ Devon, and Cornwall.
One night I slept in a damp bed, which much
affected my health. When we got to Kings-
bridge, (for it seems she had a companion.) I
was very poorly ; but being at the house of
William Prideaux, his wife, who I believe was
a faithful servant of Jesus Christ, was affec-
tionately kind, and, being dipped into the low
and closely exercised state of my mind, was
made a messenger of consolation to me. She
was one of those who sat much at her dear
Lord and Master's feet. With him, she was
frequently permitted to sup, and I believe he
many times supped with her, supporting her
exercised and deeply proved spirit. In ihiB
journey, He who openeth and none can shot,
was many times neur, to support and abili-



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176



LIFE OF SARAH STEPHENSON.



late to do what he was pleased to require, for
which and his abundant goodness many ways,
may my spirit ever love, fear, and obey him,
lor He is worthy for ever."

For this journey, she had the certificate
of Chippenham Monthly Meeting, which was
granted in the eighth month, and returned in
the twelfth. The year 1771 must therefore
be assigned for her first employment in a ser-
vice in which she was during thq remainder
of her life so much engaged, namely, the
visiting of Friends in their families. The
origin of this, she describes nearly as follows :

" A very close exercise came now on my
miod in a line in which I had not been en-
gaged. He who is pleased, in condescending
love, to open to the understandings of his
children, his blessed will, through the Spirit
of his dear Son Jesus Christ, our Mediator
and Advocate, was pleased to lay a concern
on me to visit the families of Friends at Melk-
sham, a line of service then so new, and
particularly so in this country, that I appre-
hend few, if any, could remember a visit of
this kind having been paid in it. From a
view of being such a poor, weak, and con-
temptible instrument, I frequently adopted the
language of Gideon, 'I am the least in my
Father's house;' and from an apprehension
of great unfitness, was very desirous of being
excused, endeavouring to persuade myself that
the Lord would remove the concern from me;
till, in compassionate regard, he was pleased
to administer sickness, and to sufier distress
of mind to attend. In this time I was brought
very low, and, in my own apprehension, had
every symptom of a decline, except a cough ;
so that I looked for the messenger of death,
with a desire to pay the debt due to my friends,
by a sacrifice of life. But, oh, when I looked
up with desire of beholding the gates of mercy
open for my reception, it seemed clear to me,
that if I did not obey the discovery that had
been made, it would remain, as I then saw it,
a total obstruction to my soul's entering into
the blessed kingdom of eternal rest. This
awful distressing prospect reduced all within
ine into resignation to his blessed will ; and
then the smiles of his favour arose upon my
spirit, and strengthened me to move under the
influence of his love. I laid my concern be-
fore Friends, and way was opened for my
nioving in this weighty work; which the
Lord graciously owned by his blessed Spirit,
from family to family : and I may thankfully
acknowledge that the minds of Friends were
generally open to receive what I had to com-
municate; so that I had cause to bless and
praise the holy name of Him who lives for
ever.

*' This was the beginning of a ^rk in



which my good Master has since been pleased
often to employ me, which has been very ar^
duous, through deaths oilen and deep bap-
tisms : I think scarcely any service so much
so; but he leadeth down to the bottom of Jor*
dan, in order to qualify to feel the difierent
states of individuals in families, and in this
abased state to apeak as the Spirit giveth ut-
terance. And, for these humiliating labours
the reward is sure, and preciously sweet;
though not always given in our own tinoe,
but in the blessed Messiah's, which is the best
and right time.

" In the morning, 28th of the second month,
1771, as I was musing, a state of dejection
covered my mind, so that I was fearful I
should become a prey to the enemy of ray
soul; and was deeply humbled, and an ardent
prayer was raised to the Father and Fountain
of strength and wisdom for preservation. And
He was pleased in love and great condescen-
sion, to convey to my soul the sweet over-
shadowing power of his love, for which may
all within me bow, and in fear and reverence,
bless his holy Name."

" The men's Monthly Meeting (for at this
time we had no women's) being to be h^Id at
Lavington>the6th of the twelfth month, 1771,
a weight rested with me for some days, with
an apprehension that I must attend it ; but a
clear sight of its being the requiring of hea-
ven, and the overshadowing of the Divine
presence and love, were withheld. Though
I sought with fervency of spirit, for Divine
direction, it was still withheld; I believe, to
try whether, like Saul, I would go forth with-
out it ; which I dared not do, so I concluded
to stay at home. But about an hour before
the lime of setting out, it pleased Inflnite
Goodness, in great condescension, to cover
my spirit with his love, and with indubitable
certainty of its being bis requiring, to which
all within roe was subject; and gratitude over-
spread my soul, humble praises ascending from
my lips."

The reader may now perceive that a con-
nected narration is not to be expected. Proba-
bly the author of the memorandums, w^hich
are oi&red to his perusal, might, in making
them, intend them rather as helps to her own
recollection of past instances of Divine sup-
port, than as materials for a journal. The
want of exactness in arrangement cannot now
be supplied, and the following remarks are
here introduced without the certainty of their
being placed in due order of time.

^My spirit hath been, for a considerable
length of time, baptized, and in much pain
and distress, by day and also by night, and
that sweet calm which I had before often felt
I when I awoke, was withdrawn ; a serenity in



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LIFE OP SARAH STEPHENSON.



177



which my mind felt and understood that de-
claratioD, * The angel of f he Lord encampeth
round about them that fear him, and deliver-
eth them.' Instead of this, pain was now
administered ; in this trying season, all com-
fort was withdrawn ; the stone was heavy on
the well's mouth, and I was sensible of but
little strength to roll it away. Language fails
me to express the painful feelings of my mind ;
but, O ! the invisible Power, who was pleased
to permit me to be thus tried, gave me to
behold the unsafety of drawing my comfort
from visible things ; and the secret manifesta-
tion of help was mercifully afforded, to apply
with a broken heart and a contrited spirit, to
Him who holds the winds in his hands, and
causeth them to blow where it pleaseth him.
In this state was brought to my remembrance
that text, * The kingdom of heaven suflereth
▼iolence, and the violent take it by force.'
My mind was led deeply to consider an awful
eternity, and the purity that is necessary for
the inhabitants of the new Jerusalem. These
considerations, with indisposition of body,
greatly humbled my mind, with this attend-
ant thought, perhaps kind Providence is open-
ing the eye of my aoul more clearly into
things of this nature, that I may be prepared
ibr my final change.

'' Second month, 1772. My cousin Jefierys'
daughter Catherine was taken ill, and remained
so several days. She was a child uncommonly
ripe for her age. [Probably not more than
lour years old.] The sweetness of her dispo-
sition was extraordinary, and her patience in
sickness, very instructive. I waited much
upon her, esteeming it a favour, because of
the sweet covering that attended, and particu-
kirly so when her innocent spirit departed. I
think I never experienced any thing to equal
it, on a similar occasion. She died on my
lap ; at which time Divine love, in an uncom-
mon manner, covered my spirit, and boundless
Goodness gave me to feel beyond what I can
or dare express, being permitted to behold
her rest, and taste her joy, in unutterable
bliss ; which reverently bowed all within me
in awful prostration and thanksgiving before
Him who is glorious in holiness, and fearful
in praises, and doeth wonders."

CHAPTER in.
Vitii to WdteSj C^shire, Lancashirej ^c, — to
Dortei^ Hant9j Ltmdon^ 4*c. — Dorset and So-
menet — CircviaT Meeting -^London^-famUy
Mitf fh WUtM — Devonshire and Cornwall — in-
disposition and exercise— family visits in Lonr
don^^in Bristol

In the fifth month, 1772, Sarah Stephen-
ton obtained the certificate of her Monthly
Vol. IV.— No. 6.



Meeting, for the purpose of paying a religious
visit to Friends in Wales, Cheshire, Lanca-
shire, and some adjacent counties. In the
course of it, she was again employed in the
weighty service of visiting the femilies at
Lancaster, and her relation William Dilworth
of that town, a Friend in the ministry already
mentioned, bore her company in that engage-
ment. She returned her certificate in the
eleventh month of the same year, and ac-
knowledged that she had been favoured with
Divine regard in the visit, and that she had
peace and satisfaction in giving herself up
to the service.

The next year there are no traces of her
having been exercised in travelling, until
the eighth month ; when she laid before her
Monthly Meeting her concern to visit Friends
in Dorset, Hants, London, Essex, and adja-
cent places. Having obtained the concur-
rence of the meeting, she set forward and was
soon engaged in a femily visit among Friends
at Sha&bury, Dorset. Her engagements of
this kind did not finish here ; she was alike
employed at Witham and Colchester, in Es-
sex, and at Norwich ; and she visited meet-
ings in Dorset, part of Hants, Essex, Norfolk,
and part of Suffolk. She returned by Lon-
don, and through a part of Oxfordshire ; and
on giving up her certificate in the third month,
1774, expressed her great satisfaction.

In 1774, she accompanied Jane Shipley, a
Friend in the ministry, of Ashmore, Dorset-
shire, in a visit to Somersetshire, and part of
Dorset. In the early part of 1775, she was
unwell ; but on reviewing her late engage-
ments in the discharge of apprehended duty,
she felt comfort and peace ; of which she gives
the following account.

<^Felt some bodily complaints, which in my
apprehension seemed alarming; but the co-
vering of inexpressible sweetness was spread
over my mind, with a sense of its being a taste
of the reward which the Lord will give for
faithfijiness. Encouragement thus sprung in
my soul, with hope or belief that my late en-
gagements relative to the church met with
Divine approbation. This, succeeded with
tender love to the whole race of mankind,
sweetly consoled my drooping spirit. Un-
der this Divine influence, if consistent with
the will of my heavenly Father, it would have
been comfortable to have quietly departed;
but if it is his pleasure to continue my stay
here a little longer, I humbly hope he will be
pleased to condescend to direct my steps; and
then I ask no more but, at last, a sweet ad-
mission into rest."

In the ninth month, this year, she had a
certificate to attend the Circular Meeting, to
be held at Coleshill, in Warwickshire. T*he
23



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178



LIFE OF SARAH STEPHENSON.



meetings thus denominated were annually held
in one of the seven counties of Warwick, Wor-
cester, Gloucester, Hereford, Somerset, Devon
and Cornwall. They were chiefly large pub-
lic meetings for worship, attended by persons
of other religious professions, and also drew
together no small concourse of Friends. They
have since been discontinued by direction of
the Yearly Meeting, and the last of them was
that at Gloucester in 1786.

In 1776 she again yielded to a concern to
visit the meetings of Friends in the metropolis,
and was at the Yearly Meeting. In London
she had for a companion Esther Marshall, of
Leeds, in Yorkshire ; but here they parted,
and Sarah, going into Essex, visited the fami-
lies of the Monthly Meetings of Coggeshall and
Felsted. She then returned to London, and
afterwards visited the meetings in Hampshire;
in which county she was joined by Mary Pow-
ell, of Nursted, near Devizes. About this time
Elizabeth Merryweather, of Rumsey, Hants,
daughter of Samuel and Deborah Waring, of
Alton, was concerned to visit the families of
Friends at Fordingbridge and Ringwood, in
that county, and at Poole in Dorset. Sarah
found her mind engaged to join her in this
visit; which she accordingly did, and after-
wards returned home by way of Shaftsbury.
The certificate which she had obtained for
this visit, had been addressed to Friends in
London and parts adjacent. On her return
in the tenth month, she gave an account of
the different parts which she had visited, and
though some of them must have appeared to
be rather beyond what might be called adja-
cent, her account was satisfactory to the meet-
ing.

The year 1777 was a busy one with our
industrious friend. In the first month she
laid before her Monthly Meeting a concern,
which although it was one of those she es-
teemed arduous, did not occasion a long jour-
ney. It was a family visit to Friends in Wilts,
the county of her residence. In the third
month she informed the meeting, the concur-
rence of which she had, that she had paid the
visit pretty generally; and that, though the
task had been laborious, it had been accompa-
nied with a good desree of satisfaction. These
are her words ;- and they form a phrase not
uncommon amon^ us. The critic may cavil,
and call in question their accuracy ; but the
humble diffident servant of the Lord will
thankfully receive whatever degree of joy he
may be pleased to afibrd, as the reward of
service, and say it is enough.

Our friend had no sooner ^iven in her
report of this visit, than she spread before
the meeting a prospect of another, which had
for some time en^ged her mind. This was



to visit Friends in Devonshire, and the fami*
lies of Friends at Plymouth, adding that she
apprehended this service would be succeeded
by an engagement of duty to visit Friends in
Cornwall. The meeting concurred, and she
visited in her way most of the meetings in
Dorset. Arriving in Devonshire, she had Ann
Byrd, of Uftcolme, for a companion, and they
visited the meetings and most of the families
in that county. She also had the company of
this Friend to the families of two of the three
Monthly Meetings in Cornwall ; and in one of
these, that of Catherine Phillips, of Redruth,
already mentioned in this narrative by the
name of Catherine Payton, of Dudley. In the
other Monthly Meeting, she went generally
alone, as to an outward companion ; yet, on
returning her certificate in the tenth month,
she reverently confessed that she was not des-
titute of Divine help, which was sufliciently
aflbrded to enable her to pass through the la-
borious service.

On this journey she was favoured with the
views and feelings related in the following ac-
count.

" 1st of eighth month, 1777. This morning
poorly in health, and feeling myself very un-
well, was led to look towards an everlasting
abode. Under this view my spirit was greatly
broken and tendered with the love of God, so
that I felt a willingness to leave this world, if
he was graciously pleased to prepare me for
his holy rest : and the view of being taken off,
though far from my dear relations, did not
seem hard, provided I might be received by
Divine mercy. But though, under this awful
heavenly covering, there appeared some of the
true gold. or right weight, in. me, yet I saw
there needed more of the consuming fire of
God. This caused a fear, lest, when I was
brought to the balance of the sanctuary I
should be found wanting. But my spirit was
so enclosed in Divine sweetness, that, with
brokenness of heart, I was enabled to adore
my Maker, and pray for the continuance of
his mercy and judgment, that thereby my
soul miffht become so reiSned, that when it
pleased him to say. Time here to thee roust
be no longer, I may not be foand wanting;
but, through the deep in-working of his holy
Spirit, and the abounding of his mercy, for*
giveness and great loving-kindness, throogh
5ie mediation of our dear Lord and Saviour,
Jesus Christ, I may be favoured with admission
into his holy kingdom, there to sing the song
of the redeemed." '

In the two following years we again find
her occupied in the engagement of visiting
families. Early in 1776, she set out for Lon-
don, having first obtained the cejrtificate of
her Monthly Meeting, and visited the iami-



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LIFE OF SARAH STEPHENSON.



179



lies of the Monthly Meetings of Gracechtirch
street and Ratcliff. Estlvsr Marshall was
her coRipanion in these visits, and at least
in the former, Dehorah Townsend of London.
She acknowledged on her return, that through
the daily renewal of Divine help, they were
enabled to perform that laborious work; al-
though she hinted at the deep baptisms, which
fell to the lot of such as were ensaged to visit
the Seed, because it lies low, and is much op-
pressed.

Id the first month, 1779, she informed her
Monthly Meeting of a concern to visit the
ftmilies of Friends in the large meeting of the
city of Bristol. Her account at giving back
her certificate was, that they were enabled
through Divine help, to perform the service
to their own peace; and she added that, if
they had obtained any crowns tbey cast them
down, with humble adoration, at the throne
of the Almighty ; to whom belongs, said she,
the power, thanksgiving, and praise, now and
ibr ever.



CHAPTER IV.

Vititt Leic€ster$hirey Nottinghanuhire— families
at Sheffield— Ackworth schoofr-^U at Leeds—
visits families there^ and at Lancaster — Tho-
nuu Gawthorp— Westmoreland, Cumberland,
and Scotland— famUiies there — and at NewcaS'
tUf SkiMs and Sunderland— Mabel Wigham
— wisits Durham^amiUes at Kendal — and a
second iisne at Lancaster — Ckmlbrookdale and
North Waies-^a meeting in a grave-yard,
Builth— three qf her written memorandums.

l&ARiY m the spring of 1780, Sarah Ste-
phenson set out, with due credentials, accord-
ing to the good order of the Society, on a long
journey, which took up not only the remain-
der of that year, but much of the next. The
relation of it, for the most part in her own
words, is as follows :

<'I leA Melksham the 14th of the fourth
month, 1780, accompanied by Jane Shipley,
and went by way of Cirencester, Odington,
Stow, Shipston, and Warwick, where, and
at some other places, we had roeetinss, and
reached Coventry the 24th. Next day we
had a meeting there, in which Truth arose,
and difierent states were spoken to, in a good
degree of authority. In an opportunity afler
dinner, heavenly goodness broke in, and we
had a sweet open time together, under the
lenewings of life, in which we parted. We
went that afiemoon to Hinkley, had k meet-
ing there, and reached Leicester on the 26th.
My mind was low, and dipped under the feel-
ing oC the oppression of the pure Seed, through



the prevalence of a wordly spirit. The 27th,
in a meeting there, I had very close labour,
but a little life arose ; and after dinner, many
Friends being present, we had a tendering op-
portunity, which a little relieved my mournful
spirit. The 28th we had a meeting at Lough-
borough, and afterwards rode to Castle Don-
ington, to see our dear friend, Ruth Follows.
Then we went to Nottingham, and were at the
two meetings there, on first-day the 30th. In
the afternoon Truth spread. We also had a
tendering opportunity at John Leaver's, in the
evening. The next day we went to see the
widow Coulson, who seemed in a sweet tender
frame, and not fer from her .last and safe
home. Oh, how comfortable it is to see
greraness in advanced age! We had also
other opportunities in Friends' families to
satisfaction ; and in the afternoon wo rode to
Mansfield, twelve miles, in a very heavy rain.
The 2nd of the fifth month we had a meeting
there, rather a healing comfortable season,
after which we went to Chesterfield, and had
a meeting on the 3d; a few not of our Society
attended, and considerable tenderness appeiar-
ed. The 6th, we went to Highfield, about one
mile from Sheffield.

^* I had, for a considerable time, had a con-
cern to visit families at Sheffield; and the
weight of it increasing, I found it best to
open my concern to the elders, my companion
being free to accompany me in this service.
It was united with by Friends, and we began
the weighty undertaking on first-day, the 8th,
after the two meetings there. We had up-
wards of eighty sittings, besides the usual
meetings, in less than three weeks. The la-
bour was great and the baptisms many, on
account of the low state of some, and the re-
bellious disposition of others. Vet there is
a faithful living remnant preserved amongst



Online LibraryWilliam EvansThe Friends' library: comprising journals, doctrinal treatieses, & other writings of members of the religious Society of Freinds → online text (page 39 of 104)