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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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Gompanied me being well known there, they I was over, visited some meetings in Essex and



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LIFE OF BENJAMIN BANGS.



Suffolk, and got home in health, having had
many sweet and comfortable opportunities to
mine and Friends* mutual satisfaction.

Although things had been at a low ebb for
several years in the city of Norwich, as to
the growth and prosperity of Truth, yet now
the hearts of many were opened to receive
the testimony of it, and they joined with and
sat down amongst as, and their gravity and
sobriety gained them a good report amongst
the people; by which several who were stran-
gers to us came also to be convinced, and re*
ceived the Truth, joining themselves to our
Society. We were now straitened for room
where the meeting was kept ; and there being
a piece of ground that Friends had formerly
purchased, we began to talk of building a
meeting-house there, which the younger sort
of Friends were zealously concerned K>r — but
there not being many wealthy men amongst
us, although they were sensible that such a
place was wanting, they began to consult how
money could be raised to answer the occasion.
Upon this, those that were of the best abilities
made subscriptions, and finding they fell short
of the required sum, before Friends could be
got to enlarge their former subscriptions, they
began to call upon the younger sort, who as
yet had subscribed nothing, to know what
they would do towards carrying on the work.
All being sensible of the necessity for such a
place, they needed not many words to stir
them up to subscribe out of their small abili-
ties, most of them being journeymen combers,
weavers, shoemakers, &c., but they were de-
sired not to put down more than what they
would take care honestly to pay when called
upon. So they began to consider how much
they could earn in a week, and how much of
that they could lay by towards the forwarding
of so good a work; upon which we found
that a handsome sum would be raised. This
gave such encouragement to the former sub-
scribers, that they agreed with the workmen
to erect such a building as was proposed to
them.

This intention of Friends soon got abroad in
the city, and some of the leading men thereof,
particularly the recorder, gave out. That the
Quakers never should build a house there;
but Friends took no notice of his threats, but
laid the foundation of the house. Several of
the younger Friends took a view of it, and
believing it would not be large enough to an-
swer the occasion, desired the workmen to
stop till further orders : upon which they had
recourse to the first subscribers, some of whom
subscribed ten pounds a piece more ; but that
still falling short to make good the intended
enlargement, the poorer sort were again called
upon to know what they would contribute fur-



ther? And they found the. Lord so blessed
their endeavours, that they could contribute
more than they thought they could when they
subscribed before, and so they advanced above
their first proposal. And for a further en-
largement thereto, the young men made appli-
cation to the young women servants, &c.,
desiring them to exert themselves upon this
occasion, which they readily did, and raised
several pounds amongst themselves. The
work went readily on, and was finished to the
satisfaction of all concerned.

But the recorder breathed out further threat-
enings, saying, although the Quakers had
built the house, they should never meet in it.
Yet when everything was finished, we had our
first meeting there on a fourth-day, in the
year 1680, which was large and comfortable,
for the Lord^s blessed presence was among
us, and we parted peaceably. The first-day
following we met again in the morning, which
meeting also ended in peace to our great sat-
isfaction. In the aflernoon the meeting was
much larger, but towards the conclusicm there-
of came the recorder, with the priest of the
parish, and several officers, soldiers and others.
I was at prayer when they came in, and the
recorder and the priest stepped upon a seat,
and there stood till I had almost done; then
the recorder cried out. Silence there. When
I arose from my knees, he asked me my name,
and what trade I was of, and then ordered the
constables to take me out into the passage
that goes to the street, and then went on tak-
ing the names of Friends present; bat the
priest was quickly weary of staying, for seve-
ral told him. It ill became him to appear there,
to encourage a spirit of persecution against
his peaceable neighbours. The recorder re-
plied. You meet in contempt of the law. He
was answered, that we looked upon it as our
indispensable duty to meet together to perform
that worship which we owe to Almighty Grod,
and that we were no disturbance to the gov-
ernment, being peaceably met together, of
which they themselves were witnesses. The
parson quickly withdrew and went into the
street, but having stood there awhile he came
in again, and stepping up to me, said, Yoo
are a stubborn people, and might prevent all
this trouble if you would come to church.
Pointing to the steeple-house, I said. What, dost
thou call that the church 1 He said, Yes, it is
a church ; if it be not a church, what is a
church ? I say it is the church. I answered.
The church of God is the pillar and ground of
Truth. You talk, said he ; if I ask you one
question of Divinity, you cannot answer me
a word. I answered, How dost thou know
that, thou hast not yet tried me ; and he went
away into the meeting again without any re-



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ply. He had not staid long there until he
came out again, and there being several peo*
pie in the passage, he began to tell them, The
Quakers were an erroneous people, they deny
baptism and the Lord's Supper. I stepped up
to him, and laid my hand upon his shoulder
and said, Thou asserts what thou canst never
prove. Oh, said he, are you there? And so
went into the street, and staying till the re-
corder came out, they walked away together.
Two Friends in the meeting having ob-
served the recorder's rigorous proceedings,
reminded him of the illegal proceedings of
Empson and Dudley ; ot which he took such
ofience, that after he had done taking names,
he made their mittimus and sent them to pri-
son, where, I think, they were confined till
discharged by the following Quarter Sessions.
I expected likewise to be committed, being
kept all this time under a guard in the pas-
sage; but when the recorder came out, he
kx>ked upon me, yet said nothing, but passed
away, which the guard observing, they also
passed away, and left me at lil^rty. Not
long after this our ancient Friends, George
Whitehead and Thomas Burr, came to Nor-
wich, and being at our meeting on a first-day,
were taken up and carried before the recorder
before-mentioned, who, upon their refusal to
pay twenty pounds a man for [breaching, ten-
dered them the oath of allegiance, which they
also refusing, he committed them to prison.

I was at this time visiting some meetings in
the country, but after my return to the city,
going to our week-day meeting, the constable,
one Paul Hartley, an envious malicious man,
came to the meeting, and finding me at prayer,
took me before the recorder, and I expected no
other but to be committed ; but he appeared
pretty mild, only asking me my name and
place of abode, &c., which I told him. The
busy constable took upon him to say. Sir,
there is an act by which you may commit
him ; whereupon I told him, he seemed to be
a very bold man, to take upon him to tell the
recorder what he might do; which the re-
corder smiled at, and after a few words told
me, I was at liberty, and might go about my
business.

At this time our meetings began to be pretty
much attended with informers, and the sufter-
ings of Friends increased, and soon after, as
I was at prayer in the afternoon meeting, the
constable and informers came in, and took me
before the mayor, and I was at his house be-
fore he came from his worship ; there came
with him the sherifiT and several aldermen.
At his first appearance he seemed very rough ;
I said little to him, but he presently went up
into his council chamber with his attendants,
and after awhile he sent for me, the constable



and informers, to come up. He then inquired
of the constable, where he found me t who
told him, at the Quakers meeting. He in-
quired what I was doing, and the informers
answered. Sir, he was speaking to the people.
Upon which the mayor asked me my name,
which I told him ; he then asked me. What
trade I was of? I told him I was a shoe-
maker. Oh t said he, these are brave times,
when shoemakers, weavers and combers set
up to be preachers. I told him, I thought
that a shoemaker was not much inferior to a
fisherman or a tent-maker, yet we find Christ
called such, and made them able ministers,
which I hoped he would not deny. Oh I said
he, they were moved to it by the Spirit of
God. Yes, said I, and the same God yet is.
Aye, but, said he, that extraordinary way is
not now to be expected. I answered, that he
now, that hath not the Spirit of Christ is none
of his ; and so many as are led by the Spirit
of God, they are the sons of God.

There was a Divine dread attended me upon
this occasion, and I was sensible that the power
of Truth was over all, through which I took
the freedom to advise them, to take heed what
they did, lest haply they should be found
fighting against God ; and that he, and those
that were present, knew us to be an industri-
ous and peaceable people, and to persecute us
for our meeting together to worship God,
which we looked upon to be our indispensable
duty, and to impoverish us to gratify a parcel
of indigent informers, I thought would not
tend much to their honour, why, says the
mayor, you can call them indigent informers,
but you refuse to give persons their due titles.
I told him, I thought he was mistaken, for we
never refused to give persons their due titles,
as mayor, alderman, sheriff, dsc. Well, said
he, I am glad to hear it ; and then called to
his servant to bring up a bottle of wine, which
was done, and a glass being filled, he said to
me, here is to you, but you shall not drink,
and so gave it to the sheriflT; and when the
rest had drank, he said. However, I will give
him a glass, which I refused ; he again de-
sired me to take it, and I still refusing it, it
caused him to look a little blank.

Upon this they all went down, and taking
their leave of the mayor, left me alone with
him. He then appeared very loving and
friendly to me, desiring me to take no excep-
tions at his rough behaviour at first; for, said
he, times so run, that I am obliged to show
my dislike to such things, that otherwise I
should not incline to do ; and he also asked
me whither I inclined to go from thence? I
told him, to a friend of ours that lived in Dow
lane; and he looking out and observing a
multitude of people in the market-place, who



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LIFE OF BENJAMIN BANGS.



met to see what became of me, for fear they
should give roe any disturbance, there being
four of the sherifTs officers at hand, he or-
dered them to attend me whither I had a mind
to go; which they accordingly did. When
the people saw me guarded by four men, they
concluded I was going to prison, my way
from the mayor's lying towards it, at which
they seemed to be sorry ; but seeing me turn
down Dow lane, they appeared to be glad of
it, and when I came to my friend's door, my
guards took leave of me in a friendly manner.

Having for a considerable time had some
drawings in my mind to get a meeting in a
little sea-port called Cloy, not far from Wells,
and there being but one Friend in town, who
was a master of a ship, I coold not well
tell how to obtain it; but he coming to town,
I acquainted him thereof. He told me he was
glad of it, and did not at all doubt but he
could manage that point to my satisfaction ;
for, said he, my father is living, and his de-
pendency is partly upon me, so that he will
hardly refuse anything that I request of him,
and he is clerk of the parish, and as soon as
I have discoursed him, and find a way open-
ed, I will acquaint thee therewith. Accord-
ingly he did so, and a meetins was appointed,
which he advised me of, and thither I went,
and there was a considerable appearance of
people, both of the town and country, and a
good peaceable meeting we had, for the Lord's
blessed presence was amongst us, blessed be
his name for it; when I had concluded in
prayer, the old clerk said Amen heartily.

I concluding to stay there all night, a sup-
per was prepared for me, and the priest of the
town hearing of the meeting, was inclined to
discourse with me, but not being willing to
undertake it himself, he sent about three miles
to another priest to come to his assistance,
which he did. As soon as it began to grow
a little dark and they were coming, the young
man, the Friend, went to see al\er my horse,
but meeting them pretty near to the house, he
turned in again, and told me there were two
priests coming. Upon this notice I sunk down
to my life, and kept very retired, and they
came in, and ader taking a turn or two about
the house, the assistant came and sat down
pretty near me, I having been pretty warm in
the meeting, had my cloak on, which I then
commonly rode in. The town priest still
walking about, I arose and said to him, If
thou pleasest thou mayst sit down here. The
word thou greatly displeased him. His as-
sistant said. You may keep your seat, we are
plain men, and are come to you without a
cloak. With that I turned to my seat and
replied, If you be plain men, it is well, and
though you come to me without a cloak, yet,



let roe tell you, your covering is blacker than
mine. How do you mean, says he? I repli-
ed, I mean as I say. What, says the town
priest, is this their preacher 1 Yes, says the
other, I challenge him to be him.

By this time a great many people came into
the house, and stood about the door and win-
dows. The assistant then said, We are come
to dispute with you, and you shall lay down
your proposition, and we will dispute upon it
I told him, it looked unfair in them, they be-
ing two, to press me to lay down a proposi-
tion, which was not the practice of fair dis-
putants; but the assistant pressed it several
times. I then told them, I was there, aqd if
they had anything to object against me, I was
ready to answer for myself. No, said they,
we have nothing to charge you with, but you
must lay down your proposition, and we will
argue thereupon. Something now opening
upon my mind, I told them, that although it
looked very unfair in them, yet if I laid down
a proposition, would they answer me ? They
both said. Yes, they would. Then, said f,
*' There is a manifestation of the Spirit of
God given to every man, to profit withal; this
Spirit of God is the Spirit of Truth, and that
so many as give up to it, to be led and guided
by it, it would lead and guide them into all
Truth." This is my proposition, and I will
stand by it.

The town priest in a scornful manner said.
This is no more than what we own; and
made a great noise up and down the house.
Upon which I said, I have something more to
say to it; but he continuing his noise, the
other priest said to him, Sir, pray hear him,
he says, he has something more to say to it.
Upon this he was silent. And I said, since
what I have laid down is no more than what
you own, I query. Are you the men that are
so given up to it, as to be led and guided by
the Spirit of Truth, into all Truth, yea or
nay? The town priest said, I thought what
he would say ; and the other replied, Sir, it ia
to the matter in hand. And he then said to
me, I perceive you are a scholar, pray tell
me what university, and what college you
were educated in? I said, you did promise
here, before the people, that you would an-
swer me, and I insist upon it ; but no answer
I could get. But the town priest in a light,
airy spirit, said. You Quakers pretend to be
led by the Spirit of God ; did the Spirit lead
you to this town ? I arose up and told him, I
take thee to be a man not worth a word, bat
if thou wilt be quiet (he continuing to make a
noise) I will answer thee. He repli^, methinks
you are very bold. Yes, said I, my cause ia
very good. Well, said he, what have you to
say? I answered, it was upon me from the



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LIFE OF BENJAMIN BANGS.



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Lord to visit that place. How shall I know
that» said he? I answered, whether thou
knowest it or no, the fruits of my labour
shall make it manifest. Did you ever hear
the like, people, said he, 1 have talked with
him all this while, and he has not convinced
me yet. Oh! vain man, said I. Notwith-
standing the singular life, the excellent doc-
trine, and unparalleled miracles which our
blessed Lord wrought, the high priests were
so far from being convinced by him, Ihat they
took an occasion the more to put him to death.
Upon which he was silenced.

Now, says I, as thou asked me a question,
How I came here? in my turn, I ask thee,
how thou earnest here? He answered, Why,
the Lord placed me here. What to do, said
I? He answered. To be an overseer, and a
worker in his vineyard. Aye, said I, I shall
soon know that; the aposlle says, when he
was sent forth, it was to unstop the deaf ear,
and to turn people from darkness unto light,
and from the power of satan unto God. Now,
said 1, how many hast thou turned since thou
earnest to this place?

There standing a chair between us, he
-thumped with his hand upon it, and said. May
be God's time is not yet come. What, said I,
did God place thee here to do no good ? And
since thou canst not make it appear that thou
hast converted one soul, in turning it from
darkness to light, and from satan's power to
God ; if thou wouldst prove thyself to be an
honest man, I would advise thee to make a
return of the money or effects thou hast re-
ceived from the people. And, people, said I,
I would have you to require it of him ; for by
his own discourse he cannot say, that he has
done you any good. Well, said the priest, I
will be gone. No, said I, I would have thee
stay, and 1 will undertake to prove thee a de-
ceiver before the people. I will not stay, said
he, upon your demand, and away he went.

His assistant sat all this while and said
nothing ; but now, when the other was gone,
I tuniK^ to him and asked him, what he had
now to say ? He answered. You are the hon-
estest people that dissent from the church, in
the whole kingdom, and I love you the best.
Ah I said I, this is of the colour of thy cloth,
and it looks very black; thou camest in a
lighty airy spirit, and now thou begins to flat-
ter us. Nay, replied he, I speak the truth,
and you shall come to visit me ; I live at Holt,
says he, three miles off, and you must not
deny me. Well, said I, if thou art inclinable,
and willing to allow any sober-minded people
to be present, I don't know but I may answer
thy request. No, said he, there shall be no-
body present but you, and Robert Kirby, and
me, and we will not have a word of religion.

Vol. IV.— No. 6.



but only on school terms. If that be all, said
I, I think I shall not come. Well, said he, I
must be going, and he went out, and I went
with him; and as we were walking on the
sea-shore. This, said he, I have observed, that
if once any come to be joined to your Socie-
ty, they may as well wash a blackmbor white,
and cleanse a leopard from his spots, as turn
any of you from your persuasion. I answer-
ed, we could get nothing that did us any good,
when amangst you, and having met with the
Word of eternal life, whither should we go?
There are many of you, continued I, that are
men of learning and good education, and did
you wait to receive power from God, you
might be serviceable and do good to the peo-
ple. Well, said he, you say well; but I must
go, and he took me by the hand and said, I
wish you well. I wished him the same, and
so we parted.

The young man above-mentioned, some
time after told me, that my service at Cloy
had such an efiect, that some who had the op*
portunity of the meeting, and of hearing what
had passed with the clergy in the evening,
were so thoroughly convinced, that they joined
themselves to our Society ; and the clerk, his
father, not living long after, confessed to the
Truth upon his dying-bed.

Pretty early in the spring, in the year 1681,
it was upon me to go into some part of the
west; so about the latter end of the first
month I left Norwich, and had my first meet-
ing at Wells, where I had a blessed opportu-
nity ; from thence I went to Holt, and so to
North Walsham and Yarmouth. After which
I went to Heckles in Suftblk ; from thence to
Aldborough, Woodbridge and Ipswich; and
taking a few meetings more in this county, I
passed into Essex ; where having staid sonoe
weeks visiting meetings, I came well to Lon-
don, and staid there until the Yearly Meeting
was over.

Then leaving London I came to KingstoD»
and some who were at that meeting, told me
some years after, what benefit they had re-
ceived from my being there, and they were
thankful to the Lord for it. From thence I
took some meetings in my way to Alton,
where was a large and good meeting ; from
thence to Southampton, and after a short stay
there, to Ringwood, where I was gladly re-
ceived, several having been convinced at my
former being there. I staid there some meet-
ings to the mutual comfort and satisfaction of
Friends and others.

From Ringwood I went to Pool, and so to
the isle of Purbeck, where I had a meeting at
a public inn, to which many people resorted,
and I had a good and serviceable opportunity,
many things convincingly opening in me, suit-
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able to the states of several that were present.
I passed from thence to Weymouth, where I
found myself engaged to stay several meet-
ings ; for there was en open door, and many
received the testimony of truth with gladness
in that place.

From Weymouth I returned again to Ring-
woody taking meetings in my way; I staid
there but a little, and took leave of Friends in
the spirit of love and divine fellowship, and
taking some ibw meetings in my way, I went
to Marlborough, and had a good opportunity.
And visiting sotne other meetings, I came to
Reading, where we had a comfortable meeting,
the Lord^s blessed presence being sensibly
felt, to the joy and comfort of many present.
Taking some meetings as f went, I got again
to London ; and staid but little there, for I felt a
concern upon my spirit to visit some parts of
the north, and took not many meetings before
I got to Norwich.

In this journey I can truly say, a spring of
Divine Goodness did attend me, and the meet-
ings through which I passed, were sensible
partakers thereof, and comforted thereby.
Whilst I staid in the city, I followed my
business very closely ; but my journey before
mentioned, falling more weightily upon me, I
found I could not be clear without giving up
to answer it, whereupon I prepared for it, and
accordingly, towards the latter end of the se-
venth month I set forward, and taking some
meetings, passed through the isle of Ely into
Huntingtonshire ; aAer having had several meet-
ings in that county, I came to Wellingborough
in Northamptonshire, and so to Northampton.

From Northampton I had drawings in my
mind to go to Warwick, to visit our friend
William Dewsbury, who was then a prisoner
there, whom I was very glad to see, and he
took my visit very kindly. AAer having had
several meetings in that county, my way
opened to go to Worcester ; and having staid
some meetings there, I came next into Here-
fordshire, taking meetings as I passed along
through that county into Radnorshire. I got
to Welch Pool, and having had a meeting
there, I went for Shrewsbury, and staid a
meeting there. Prom thence I went to a
meeting appointed for me at Gilbert Wool-
lam's, at Ranmore, near Namptwich in Che-
shire, to which then a pretty many substantial
Friends belonged ; but many of them after-
wards removing into Pennsylvania, did great-
ly lessen it. I lodged that night with our an-
cient Friend Thomas Briggs, often mentioned
in George Pox's Journal; and the good old
man told me in the morning, he had been
much concerned that night in praying to the
Lord for the whole society of his people.

The next day I went to John Simcock's at



Rigley-hall, where I had a meeting that even-



Online LibraryWilliam EvansThe Friends' library: comprising journals, doctrinal treatieses, & other writings of members of the religious Society of Freinds → online text (page 49 of 104)