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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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with the recital of its ridiculous contents.
What principally made me sick of my new
intention was, that I was to swear I considered
the Pretender to be king James's son, and the
true heir of the crown of England ; and that
all who died out of the pale of the popish
church, would be damned. These doctrines
startled me ; I hesitated, and desired time to
take them into consideration; but, before I
saw the priest again, a change of circum-
stances freed me from the necessity of giving
him an answer.

My father still keeping me at such a dis-
tance, I thought myself quite excluded from
his afiections, and therefore resolved not to
return home. I became acquainted with a
gentlewoman, lately arrived from Pennsylva-
nia ; who was intending to return, and, as I
had an uncle, my mother's brother, in this
province, I soon agreed with her for my pas-
sage. I was ignorant of the nature of an in-
denture, and suffered myself to be bound.
This was done privately, that it might not be
found out. As soon as it was over, she in-
vited me to see the vessel in which I was to
sail. I readily consented, and we went on
board, where there was another young woman,
who, as 1 afterwards found, was of a respecta-
ble family, and had been brought there in the
same way as myself. I was pleased with the
thought that I should have such an agreeable
companion in my voyage. While we were
busy conversing, my conductor went on shore,
and when I wished to go, I was not permit-
ted. I now saw I was kidnapped. I was
kept a prisoner in the ship three weeks, at the
end of which time my companion was found
out by her friends, who fetched her away;
and by her information, my friends sent the
water-bailiff, who took me on shore. I was
kept close for two weeks, but at length found
means to get away. I was so filled with the
thoughts of going to America that I could not
give up the design ; and meeting the captain,
I inquired when he sailed ; he told me, and I
went on board.

There were in the ship, sixty Irish servants
and several English passengers. The latter
were unacquainted with the Irish language,
which I had taken much pains to learn, and
understood pretty well. Twenty of the ser-



vants belonged to the gentlewoman above-
mentioned, who, with a young man, her hus-
band's brother, went with us. While we
were on the coast of Ireland, where the wind
kept us some weeks, I overheard the Irish
contriving how they should be free, when
they got to America. To accomplish their
design, they concluded to rise and kill the
ship's crew, and all the English, and to ap-
point the above-mentioned young man to na-
vigate the vessel. But, overhearing their
conversation, I discovered their barbarous in-
tention to the captain, who acquainted the
English with it. The next day we bore for
the shore, and at a short distance from the
cove of Cork, lowered sail and dropped an-
chor, under pretence that the wind was not
fair for us to stand our course. The boat
was hoisted out, and the passengers were in-
vited to go and divert themselves on shore.
Along with others went the ringleader of the
Irish. This was all that was desired. The
rest lefl him, and came on board. The cap-
tain immediately ordered his men to weigh
anchor, and hoist sail. There were great
outcries for the young man on shore, but he
said that the wind had freshened up, and he
would not stay for his own son. Thus were
the designs of those Irish servants rendered
abortive, in a way they did not suspect, and
which it was thought advisable to keep a se-
cret, lest they should injure me. At length,
however, they discovered that I understood
their speech, by my smilins at a story they
were telling. From this time they devised
many ways to do me mischief, for which se-
veral of them were punished.

On the 15th of the seventh month, which
was nine weeks after we left Dublin, we ar-
rived at New York. Here I was betrayed by
the very men whose lives I had preserved.
The captain caused an indenture to be made,
and threatened me with a jail, if I refused to
sign it. I told him that I could find means
to satisfy him for my passage without becom-
ing bound. He replied, that I might take my
choice, either to sign the indenture he showed
me, or the one I had signed in Ireland should
be in force. In a fright, I signed the former;
for I had by this time learned the character
of the woman who first induced me to think
of going to America ; she was a vile creature,
and I feared that if I fell into her hands, I
should be used ill.

In two weeks I was sold. At first I had
not much reason to complain of the treatment
I received ; but in a short time a difference,
in which I was innocent, happened, that set
my master against me, and rendered him in-
human. It will be impossible for me to con-
vey an adequate idea of the sufierings of my



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LIFE OF ELIZABETH ASHBRIDOR



servitude. Though my father was not rich,
yet, in his house I lived well, and I had been
used to little but my school; but now I found
it would have been better for me if I had been
brought up with less indulgence. I was not
allowed decent clothes ; I was obliged to per-
form the meanest drudgery, and even to go
barefoot in the snow. I suffered the utmost
hardship that my body was able to bear, and
the- effect produced on my mind had nearly
been my ruin for ever.

My master seemed to be a very religious
man, taking the sacrament, so called, regu-
larly, and praying every night in his family;
unless his prayer book could not be found, for
he never prayed without it to my knowledge.
His example, however, made me sick of his
religion : for though I had but little religion
myself, I had some idea of what religious peo-
ple ought to be. Respecting religion, my
opinions began to waver; I even doubted whe-
ther there was any such thing ; and began to
think that the convictions I had felt from my
infancy, were only the prejudices of educa-
tion. These convictions seemed now to be
lost ; and for some months I do not remem-
ber to have (eh them. I became hardened,
and was ready to conclude that there was no
God. The veneration I had felt for religious
men^ in my infancy, was entirely gone; I
now looked upon tiiem in a very difierent
manner. My roaster's house was a place of
great resort for the clergy; and sometimes
those who came from a distance lodged with
him. The observations I made on their con-
duct confirmed me m my atheistical opinions.
They diverted themselves in the evening,
with cards and songs, and a few moments
aAer, introduced prayers and singing psalms
to Almighty God. Oflen did I say to myself,
" If there be a God, he is a pure Being, and
will not hear the prayers of polluted lips."

But he who hath in an abundant manner
shown mercy to me, as will be seen in the
sequel, did not long suffer my mind to be per-
plexed with doubts ; but, in a moment, when
my feet were on the brink of the bottomless
pit, plucked me back.

To one woman, and to no other, I told the
nature of the difference which had happened
two years before, between my master and me.
By her means he heard of it, and though
he knew it was true, he sent for the town's
whipper to correct me. I was called in. He
never asked me whether I had told any such
thing, but ordered me to strip. My heart
was ready to burst. I would as freely have
given up my life as have sufllered such igno-
miny. "If," said I, "there be a God, be
graciously pleased to look down on one of the
most unhappy creatures, and plead my cause;



for thou knowest that what I have related is
the truth ;" and had it not been for a principle
more noble than he was capable of, I would
have told it to his wife. Then fixing my
eyes on the barbarous man, I said, " Sir, if
you have no pity on me, yet for my father's
sake spare me from this shame ; for he had
heard several ways of my parents; and if
you think I deserve such punishment, do it
yourself." He took a turn over the room,
and bade the whipper go about his business.
Thus I came off without a blow ; but my
character seemed to be lost. Many reports
of me were spread, which I bless God were
not true. I suffered so much cruelty that I
could not bear it ; and was tempted to put an
end to my miserable life. I listened to the
temptation, and for that purpose went into
the garret to hang myself. Now it was I felt
convinced that there was a God. As I en-
tered the place, horror and trembling seized
me ; and while I stood as one in amazement,
I seemed to hear a voice saying, " There is a
hell beyond the grave." I was greatly aston-
ished, and cried, " God be merciful, and en-
able me to bear whatsoever thou in thy pro-
vidence, shall bring or suffer to come upon
me." I then went down stairs, but let no one
know what I had been about.

Soon afler this I had a dream; and though
some ridicule dreams, this seemed very sig-
nificant to me, and therefore I shall mention
it. I thought I heard a knocking at the door,
by which, when I had opened it, there stood
a grave woman, holding in her right hand a
lamp burning, who, with a solid countenance,
fixed her eye upon me and said, " I am sent
to tell thee, that if thou wilt return to the
Lord thy God, who created thee, he will have
mercy on thee, and thy lamp shall not be put
out in obscurity." Her lamp then flamed, in
an extraordinary manner ; she left me, and I
awoke.

But, alas ! I did not give up to the " hea-
venly vision," as I think I may call it. I was
nearly caught in another snare, of the most
dangerous nature. I was esteemed skilful at
singing and dancing, in which I took great
delight. Once, falling in with a company of
players, who were then in New York, they
took a great fancy, as they said, to me, and
invited me to become an actress amongst
them. They added, that they would find
means to release me from my cruel servitude,
and I should live like a lady. The proposal
pleased me, and I took no small pains to qua-
lify myself for them, in reading their play-
books, even when I should have slept. Yet,
on reflection, I demurred at taking this new
step, when I came to consider what my father
would think of it, who had forgiven my dis-



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14



LIFE OF ELIZABETH ASHBRIDGE.



obedience in marrying, and had sent for me
home, earnestly desiring to see me again.
But my proud heart would not suffer me to
return, in so mean a condition, and I preferred
bondage. However, when I had served about
three years, I bought out the remainder of my
time, and worked at my needle, by which I
could maintain myself handsomely. But, alas!
I was not sufficiently punished. I released
myself from one cruel servitude, and in the
course of a few months, entered into another
for life, by marrying a young man who fell
in love with me for my dancing ; a poor mo-
tive for a man to choose a wife, or a woman
a husband. For my part, I was in love with
nothing I saw in him; and it seems unac-
countable to me, that ader refusing several
offers, both in this country and Ireland, I
should at last marry one I did not esteem.
My husband was a school-master. A few
days after we were married, we went from
New York to a place called Westerly, in
Rhode Island, where he had engaged to keep
a school. With respect to religion he was
much like myself, without any ; and when
intoxicated, would use the worst of oaths. I
do not mention this to expose him, but to show
the effect it had on myself. I saw myself ru-
ined, as I thought, in being joined to a man I
did not love, and who was a pattern of no
good to me. We thus seemed hastening to-
wards destruction, when I concluded, if I was
not forsaken of heaven, to alter my course of
life. To fix my affection on the Divine Being,
and not to love my husband, seemed inconsis-
tent. I daily desired, with tears, that my af-
fections might be directed in a right manner,
and can say, that in a little time, my love was
sincere. I resolved to do my duty to God, and
expecting I must come to the knowledge of it
by the Scriptures, I read these sacred writings
with a determination to follow their directions.
The more I read, the more uneasy I grew,
especially about baptism. I had reason to
believe I had been sprinkled in my infancy,
because, at the age of thirteen, I was confirm-
ed by the bishop ; yet I could not discover a
precedent for the practice. In the course of
reading, I came to the passage where it is
said, " He that believes and is baptized," &c.
Here I observed that belief, of which I was
not capable when sprinkled, went before bap-
tism. I conversed frequently with the Sev-
enth-day Baptists that lived in the neighbour-
hood, and at length thinking it a real duty,
was in the winter baptized by one of their
teachers. I did not strictly join with them,
though I began to think the seventh-day the
true sabbath, and for a time kept it. My hus-
band did not oppose me, for he saw I grew
more affectionate to him; and as yet, I did



not refuse to sing and dance when he asked
me, though this way of amusing myself did
not yield me so much satisfaction as formerly.

My husband and I now formed the plan of
going to England, and for this purpose we
went to Boston, where we found a vessel
bound to Liverpool. We agreed for our pas-
sage, and expected to sail in about two weeks ;
but in the mean time, a gentleman hired the
vessel to carry himself and his attendants to
Fayal, and take no other passengers. There
being no other ship near sailing, we for that
time gave up our design, though we continued
at Boston several weeks. My mind was still
not satisfied with regard to religion. I had
reformed my conduct, so as to be accounted,
by those who knew me, a sober woman; yet I
was not content, for I expected to find the
sweets of such a change ; and though several
thought me religious, I dared not to think so
myself. I conversed with people of all socie-
ties, as opportunity offered, several of whom
thought I was of their persuasion ; however, I
joined strictly with none, but resolved never
to leave off searching till I found the truth.
This was in the twenty-second year of my age.
While we were in Boston, I went one day
to the Quakers' meeting, where I heard a wo-
man Friend speak, at which I was a little sur-
prised. I had been told of women's preach-
ing, but had never heard it before; and I
looked upon her with pity for her ignorance,
and contempt for her practice ; saying to my-
self, " I'm sure you're a fool, and if ever I
turn Quaker, which will never be, I will not
be a preacher." Thus was my mind occupied
while she was speaking. When she had done,
a man stood up, who I could better bear. He
spoke sound doctrine on good Joshua's reso-
lution, "As for me and my house we will
serve the Lord." After sitting down and re-
maining silent awhile, he went to prayer,
which was attended with something so awful
and affecting, that it drew tears from my eyes.

After leaving Boston, my husband being
given to rambling, which was very disagree-
able to me, we went to Rhode Island, and
from thence to the east end of Long Island,
where he hired to keep a school. This place
was principally settled by Presbyterians, and
I soon became acquainted with the most reli-
gious among them. My poverty was no bar
to my reception with people of the best credit,
with whom I frequently conversed; but the
more I became acquainted with them, the less
I liked their opinions. Many temptations in
the mean time, assaulted my unsettled mind.
Having been abroad one day, I perceived that
the people in whose house we had a room,
had left some flax in an apartment through
which I was to pass ; at the sight of it, I waa



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LIFE OF ELIZABETH ASHBRIDGB



15



tempted to steal some to make thread. I went
to it, and took a small bunch in my hand,
upon which I was smitten with such remorse
that I laid it down again, saying, *' Lord keep
me from so vile an action." But the tempta-
tion to steal became stronger than before, and
I took the bunch of flax into my room ; when
I came there, horror seized me, and with tears
I cried out, " O, thou God of mercy, enable
me to abstain from this vile action." I then
took the flax back, and felt that pleasure
which is only known to those who have re-
sisted temptation.

My husband having hired further up the
island, we changed our residence, and the
nearest place of worship belonging to a con-
gregation of the Church of England, which,
on the whole, I liked best, I attended it.

A fresh exercise, of a very peculiar kind,
now came upon me. It was in the second
month : I thought myself sitting by a fire, in
company with several others, among whom
was my husband; when there arose a thunder
gust, and a noise, loud as from a mighty
trumpet, pierced my ears with these words :
'* Oh eternity I eternity , the endless term of
long eternity P'* I was exceedingly astonished,
and while I was sitting as in a trance, I be-
held a long roll, written in black characters,
hearing at the same time, a voice saying,
^* These are thy sins," and aAerwards adding,
" And the blood of Christ is not sufficient to
wash them out. This is shown thee that thou
mayest confess thy damnation to be just, and
not in order that that thou shouldst be for-
given." I sat speechless; at last I got up
trembling i^nd threw myself on the bed. The
company thought my indisposition proceeded
from a fright occasioned by the thunder ; but
it was of another kind. For several months
I was almost in a state of despair, and \^ at
any time I endeavoured to hope or lay hold
of any gracious promise, the tempter would
insinuate that it was now too late; that the day
of mercy was over ; and that I should only
add to my sins by praying for pardon, and
provoke Divine vengeance to make of me a
monument of wrath. I was, as it were, al-
ready in torment. I could not sleep, and ate
but little. I became extremely melancholy,
and took no delight in any thing. Had all
the world been mine, I would have given it
gladly for one glimpse of hope.

My husband was shocked to see me so
changed. I, who once used to divert him
with singing and dancing, in which he greatly
delighted, could not, since I grew religious, do
it any longer. My singing was turned into
mourning, and my dancing into lamentation.

My nights and days were one continued
scene of sorrow ; but I let no one know the



state of my mind. In vain did my husband
use all the means in his power to divert my
melancholy. The wound was too deep to be
healed with any thing short of the balm of
Gilead. For fear of evil spirits I dared not,
nor would my husband suffer me to go much
alone ; and if I took up the Bible, he would
take it from me, exclaiming, " How you are
altered ; you used to be agreeable company,
but now IVe no comfort in you." I endea-
voured to bear all with patience, expecting
that I should soon have to bear more than
man could inflict.

I went to the priest, to see if he could re-
lieve me ; but he was a stranger to my case.
He advised me to take the sacrament, and
amuse myself with innocent diversions. He
also lent me a book of prayers, which he said
were suited to my condition. But all was to
no purpose; as to the sacrament, I thought
myself in a very unfit state to receive it wor-
thily : as for prayers, it appeared to me that
when I could pray acceptably, I should be
enabled to do it without form; and diver-
sions were burthensome. My husband, with
a view to alleviate my grief, persuaded me
to go to the raising of a building, where
much company was collected, but it had a
contrary effect. An officer came to sum-
mons a jury to sit on the body of a man who
had hanged himself; on receiving which in-
formation, a voice within me seemed to ad-
dress me thus ; — " Thou shalt be the next to
come to a like end ; for thou art not worthy
to die a natural death." For two months I
was daily tempted to destroy myself, oflen so
strongly that I could scarcely resist. Before
I ventured to walk out alone, I lefl behind me
every article which, in an unguarded moment
I might use for this purpose ; fervently desir-
ing, at the same time, that God would pre-
serve me from taking that life which he had
given, and which he would have made happy,
if I had accepted the ofiers of his grace, by
regarding the convictions he had favoured
me with from my youth. During aU this
agony of mind, I could not shed a tear.
My heart was hardened, and my life mise-
rable; but God in his infinite mercy, deli-
vered my soul from this thraldom. One
night, as I lay in bed, bemoaning my condi-
tion, I cried, " Oh my God, I beseech thee,
in thy mercy, look down upon me for Christ's
sake, who hath promised that all manner of
sins and blasphemies shall be forgiven. Lord,
if thou wilt be graciously pleased to extend
this promise to me, an unworthy creature,
trembling before thee, in all that thou shalt
command I will obey thee." In an instant
my heart was tendered, and I was dissolved
in a flood of tears. I abhorred my past of-



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LIFE OF EUZABETH ASHBRIDGE-



leDoeS) and admired the mercies of my God.
I could now hope in Christ my Redeemer, and
look upon him with an eye of faith. I expe-
rienced what I believed when the priest lent
me his book, that when my prayers would be
acceptable, I should not need a form, which I
used no more. I now took the sacrament, and
can say I did it with reverence and fear.

Being thus released from my deep distress,
I seemed like another creature, and went oden
alone without fear. Once, as I was abhor-
ring myself, in great humility of mind, I seem-
ed to hear a gracious voice, full of love, say
to me, " I will never forsake thee, only obey
in what I shall make known unto thee." I
answered, *'My soul doth magnify the God
of mercy. If thou wilt dispense thy grace,
the rest of my days shall be devoted to serve
thee ; and if it be thy will that I should beg
my bread, I will submit with content to thy
providence."

I now began to think of my relations in
Pennsylvania, whom I had not yet seen. My
husband gave me liberty to visit them, and I
obtained a certificate from the priest, in order
that, if I made any stay, I might be received
as a member of the church wherever I came.
My husband accompanied me to the Blazing-
star ferry, saw me safely over, and then re-
turned. In my way, I fell from my horse,
and for several days was unable to travel.
I abode at the house of an honest Dutchman,
who, with his wife, paid me the utmost atten-
tion, and would have no recompense for their
trouble. I left them with sentiments of deep
gratitude for their extraordinary kindness,
and they charged me, if ever I came that
way again, to lodge with them. I mention
this, because I shall have occasion to allude
to it hereaAer.

When I came to Trenton ferry, I felt no
small mortification on hearing that my rela-
tions were all Quakers, and what was worst
of all, that my aunt was a preacher. I was
exceedingly prejudiced against this people,
and oflen wondered how they could call them-
selves Christians. I repented my coming, and
was almost inclined to turn back; yet as I was
so far on my journey, I proceeded, though I
expected but little comfort from my visit. How
little was I aware that it would bring me to
the knowledge of the Truth !

I went from Trenton to Philadelphia by
water, and from thence to my uncle's on
horseback. My uncle was dead, and my
aunt married again; yet, both she and her
husband received me in the kindest manner.
I had scarcely been three hours in the house,
before my opinion of these people began to
alter. I perceived a book lying upon the ta-
ble, and being fond of reading, took it up; my



aunt observed me, and said, ** Cousin, that
is a Quaker's book." She saw I was not a
Quaker, and supposed I would not like it. I
made her no answer, but queried with myself,
what can these people write about ? I have
heard that they deny the Scriptures, and have
no other Bible than George Fox's Journal —
denying, also, all the holy ordinances. But,
before I had read two pages, my heart burned
within me, and for fear I should be seen, £
went into the garden. I sat down, and as
the piece was short, read it before I returned,
though I was oflen obliged to stop to give
vent to my tears. The fulness of my heart
produced the involuntary exclamation, " O my
God, must I, if ever I come to the knowledge
of thy Truth, be of this man's opinion, who
has sought thee as I have done ; and must I
join this people, to whom a few hours ago I



Online LibraryWilliam EvansThe Friends' library: comprising journals, doctrinal treatieses, & other writings of members of the religious Society of Freinds → online text (page 4 of 104)