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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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preferred the Papists. O, thou God of my
salvation, and of my life, who hast abundantly
manifested thy long sufiering and tender mer-
cy, in redeeming me as from the lowest hell,
I beseech thee to direct me in the right way,
and keep roe from error; so will I perform
my covenant, and think nothing too near to
part with for thy name's sake. O, happy
people, thus beloved of God !"

Af\er having collected myself, I washed
my face, that it might not be perceived I had
been weeping. In the night I got but little
sleep; the enemy of mankind haunted me
with his insinuations, su^esting that I was
one of those who wavered, and was not stead-
fast in faith; advancing several texts of Scrip-
ture against me, as that, in the latter days
there should be those who would deceive the
very elect; that of such were the people I was
among, and that I was in danger of being de-
luded. Warned in this manner, (from the
right source as I thought,) I resolved to be
aware of those deceivers, and for some weeks
did not touch one of their books. The next
day, being the first of the week, I was desir-
ous of going to church, which was distant
about four miles ; but being a stranger, and
having no one to go with me, I gave up all
thoughts of that, and as most of the family
were going to meeting, I went there with them.
As we sat in silence, I looked over the meeting,
and said to myself, ** How like fools these peo-
plet sit ; how much better would it be to stay
at home, and read the Bible, or some good
book, than to come here and go to sleep."
As for me I was very drowsy; and while
asleep, had nearly fallen down. This was
the last time I ever fell asleep in a meeting.
I now began to be lifted up with spiritual
pride, and to think myself better than they ;
but this disposition of mind did not last long.
It may seem strange, that afler living so long



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LIFE OF ELIZABETH ASHBRIDGE.



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with one of this Society at Dublin, I should
yet be so much a stranger to them. In an-
swer, let it be considered that while I was
there, I never read any of their books, nor
went to one meeting; besides, I had heard
such accounts of them, as made me think
that, of all societies, they were the worst.
But he who knows the sincerity of the heart,
looked on my weakness with pity ; I was per-
mitted to see my error, and shown that these
were the people I ought to join.

A few weeks afterwards, there was an af-
ternoon meeting at my uncle's, at which a
minister named William Hammans was pre-
sent. I was highly prejudiced against him
when he stood up, but I was soon humbled ;
for he preached the Gospel with such power
that I was obliged to confess it was the truth.
But, though he was the instrument of assist-
ing me out of many doubts, my mind was not
wholly freed from them. The morning before
this noeeting I had been disputing with my
uncle about baptism, which was the subject
handled by this minister, who removed all my
scruples beyond objection, and yet I seemed
loath to believe that the sermon I had heard
proceeded from divine revelation. I Accused
my aunt and uncle of having spoken of me
to the Friend; but they cleared themselves,
by telling me, that they had not seen him
since my coming, until he came into the meet-
ing. I then viewed him as the messenger of
God to me, and laying aside my prejudices,
opened my heart to receive the truth ; the
beauty of which was shown to me, with the
glory of those who continued faithful to it. I
had also revealed to me the emptiness of all
shadows and types, which, though proper in
their day, were now, by the coming of the
Son of God, at an end, and everlasting righte-
ousness, which > is a work in the heart, was
to be established in the room thereof. I was
permitted to see that all I had gone through
was to prepare roe for this day ; and that the
time was near, when it would be required of
me, to go and declare to others what the Grod
of mercy had done for my soul ; at which I
was surprised, and desired to be excused, lest
I should bring dishonour to the Truth, and
cause his holy name to be evilly spoken of.

Of these things I let no one know. I
feared discovery, and did not even appear like
a Friend.

I now hired to keep school, and hearing of
a place for my husband, I wrote, and desired
him to come, though I did not let him know
how it was with me.

I loved to be at meetings, but did not love
to be seen going on week-days, and therefore
went to them from my school, through the
woods* Notwithstanding all my care, the

Vol. IV.— No. 1.



neighbours, who were not Friends, soon be-
gan to revile me with the name of Quaker ;
adding, that they supposed I intended to be a
fool, and turn preacher. Thus did I receive
the same censure, which, about a year before,
I had passed on one of the handmaids of the
Lord in Boston. I was so weak, that I could
not bear the reproach, and in order to change
their opinion, went into greater excess of ap-
parel than I had freedom to do, even before I
became acquainted with Friends. In this
condition I continued until my husband came,
and then began the trial of my faith.

Before he reached me, he heard I was
turned Quaker; at which he stamped, and
said, " I had rather have heard she was dead,
well as I love her ; for, if it be so, all my
comfort is gone." AAer an absence of four
months, he came to me, and I got up and said
to him, " My dear, I am glad to see thee."
At this, he flew into a great rage, exclaiming,
" The devil thee, thee, thee, don't thee me."
I endeavoured by every mild means to pacify
him; and at length got him fit to speak to
my relations. As soon aAer this as we were
alone, he said to me, "And so I see your
Quaker relations have made you one ;" I re-
plied, that they had not, which was true, I
never told them how it was with me. He said
he would not stay amongst them ; and having
found a place to his mind, hired, and came
directly back to fetch me, walking, in one af-
ternoon, thirty miles to keep me from meeting
the next day, which was first-day. He took
me, aAer resting this day, to the place where
he had hired, and to lodgings he had engaged
at the house of a churchwarden. This man
was a bitter enemy of Friends, and did all he
could to irritate my husband against them.

Though I did not appear like a Friend, they
all believed me to be one. When my hus-
band and he used to be making their diver-
sions and reviling, I sat in silence, though
now and then an involuntary sigh broke from
me ; at which he would say, " There, did riot
I tell you your wife was a Quaker, and she
will become a preacher." On such an occa-
sion as this, my husband once came up to me
in a great rage, and shaking his hand over
me, said, *< You had better be hanged in that
day." I was seized with horror, and again
plunged into despair, which continued nearly
three months. I was afraid that, by denying
the Lord, the heavens would be shut against
me. I walked much alone in the woods, and
there, where no eye saw, nor ear heard me,
lamented my miserable condition. Often have
I wandered, from morning till night, without
food. I was brought so low that my life be-
came a bunden to me, and the devil seemed
to vaunt, that though the sins of my youth
8



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LIFE OF ELIZABETH ASHBRIDGE-



were forgiven me, yet now I bad committed
an unpardonable sin, and hell would inevitably
be my portion, and my torments greater tban
if I had hanged myself at first.

In the night, under this painful distress of
mind, I could not sleep, and if my husband
perceived me weeping, he would revile me for
it. At length, when he and his friend thought
themselves too weak to overset me, he went
to the priest at Chester, to inquire what he
could do with me. This man knew I was a
member of the church, for I had shown him
my certificate. His advice was, to take me
out of Pennsylvania, and settle in some place
where there were no Quakers. My husband
replied, he did not care where we went, if he
could but restore me to my natural liveliness
of temper. As for me, I had no resolution to
oppose their proposals, nor much cared where
I went. I seemed to have nothing to hope for.
I daily expected to be made a victim of Di-
vine wrath, and was possessed with the idea
that this would be by thunder.

When the time of removal came, I was not
permitted to bid my relations farewell ; and,
as my husband was poor, and kept no horse,
I was obliged to travel on foot. We came to
Wilmington, fifteen miles, and from thence to
Philadelphia by water. Here we stopped at
a tavern, where I became the spectacle and
discourse of the company. My husband told
them his wife had become a Quaker, and he
designed, if possible, to find out a place where
there were none. I thought I was once in a
condition to deserve that name, but now it is
over with me. O that I might, from a true
hope, once more have an opportunity to con-
fess the truth ; though I was sure of all man-
ner of cruelties, I would not regard them.
Such were my concerns, while he was enter-
taining the company with my story, in which
he told them that I had been a good dancer,
but now he could get me neither to dance nor
sing. One of the company then started up,
and said, ** I'll fetch a fiddle, and we'll have
a good dance;" a proposal with which my
husband was pleased. When the fiddle was
brought, my husband came and said to me,
*' My dear, shake off* that gloom, and let us
have a civil dance ; you would, now and then,
when you were a good churchwoman, and
that's better than a stiff Quaker." I had
taken up the resolution not to comply with
his request, whatever might be the conse-
quence ; this I let him know, though I durst
say but little, for fear of his choleric temper.
He pulled me round the room, till the tears fell
from my eyes, at the sight of which the mu-
sician stopped, and said " I'll play no more ;
let your wife alone." A person in company,
who came from Freehold, in East Jersey, said,



'* I see your wife's a Quaker, but, if you'll
take my advice you need not go so far as you
intend; come and live with us; we'll soon
cure her of her Quakerism, and we want a
school-master and school-mistress too." He
consented, and a happy turn it was for me, as
will shortly be seen. The answer of peace
was afforded me, for refusing to dance ; I re-
joiced more than if I had been made mistress
of much riches, and with tears, prayed,
** Lord, I dread to ask, and yet without thy
gracious pardon, I am miserable. I therefore
fall down before thy throne, imploring mercy
at thy hand. O Lord, once more, I beseech
thee, try my obedience, and then, in whatso-
ever thou commandest, I will obey thee, and
not fear to confess thee before men." My
cries were hQ{^rd, and it was shown to me»
that he delights not in the death of a sinner.
My soul was again set at liberty, and I could
praise him.

In our way to Freehold, we visited the kind
Dutchman, whom I have mentioned in a for-
mer part of this narrative. He made us wel-
come, and invited us to pass a day or two
with him. During our stay, we went to a
large meeting of Presbyterians, held not only
for worship, but business; and the trial of one
of their priests, who had been charged with
drunkenness, was to come on. I perceived
such great divisions among the people, re-
specting who should be their shepherd, that I
pitied them. Some insisted on having the old
oilender restored ; others wished to have a
young man they had had on trial for some
weeks; others, again, were for sending to New
England for a minister. In reply, one who ad-
dressed himself to the chief speaker observed,
<*Sir, when we have been at the expense,
which will not be trifling, of fetching this gen-
tleman from New England, perhaps he'll not
stay with us." "Don't you know how to
make him stay?" said another. "No sir."
" I'll tell you ; give him a large salary, and
I'll engage he'll stay." I listened attentively
to the debate, and it plainly appeared to me,
that these mercenary preachers were actuated
by one motive, which was, not the regard for
souls, but the love of money. One of these
men, called a reverend divine, whom these
people almost adored, had, to my knowledge,
lefl his flock in Long Island, and removed to
Philadelphia, where he could get more money.
I have myself heard some on the island say
that they had almost impoverished themselves
in order to keep him; but, being unable to
equal what be was ofl^ered at Philadelphia, he
lefl them. Surely these are the shepherds
who regard the fleece more than the flock,
and in whose mouths are lies, when they say
that they are the ambassadors of Christ, whose



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LIFE OF ELIZABETH ASHBRIDGE.



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command it is, "Freely ye have received,
freely give."

In our way to Freehold, as we came to
Stony Brook, my husband turned towards me
and tauntingly said, " Here's one of satan's
synagogues, don't you long to be in it; 1
hope to see you cured of your new religion."
A little further on we came to a large run of
water, over which there was no bridge, and
being strangers we knew no way to avoid
passing through it. He carried over our
clothes, which we had in bundles ; and taking
off my shoes, I walked through in my stock-
ings. It was in the twelfth month ; the wea-
ther was very cold and a fait of snow lay on
the ground. It was the concern of my heart,
that the Lord would sanctify all my afflictions
to me and give me patience to bear them.
Ai^er walking nearly a mile we came to a
house, which proved to be a sort of tavern.
My husband called for some spirituous liquors,
and I got some weakened cider mulled, which
rendered me extremely sick ; so that afler we
were a little past the house, being too faint to
proceed I fell down. "What's the matter
now 7" said my husband, " what, are you
drunk? Where's your religion now?" He
knew I was not drunk, and at that time I be-
lieve he pitied me, although he spoke in this
manner. A(\er I was a little recovered, we
went on and came to another tavern, where
we lodged. The next day as we journeyed, a
young roan driving an empty cart, overtook
us. We asked him to let us ride, and he
readily granted the request. I had known the
time when I would not have been seen in a
cart, but my proud heart was humbled, and 1
did not now regard the look of it. This cart
belonged to a roan in Shrewsbury, and was to
go through the place of our destination. We
soon had the care of the team to ourselves,
through a failure of the driver, and arrived
with it at Freehold. My husband would have
had me stay here, while he went to see the
team' sale home ; I told him, no ; since he had
led me through the country like a vagabond,
I would not stay behind him. We therefore
went together, and lodged that night at the
house of the owner of the cart. The next
day on our return to Freehold, we met a man
who said to my husband, "Sir, are you a
schoolmaster?" He answered, "Yes." "I
am come," replied the stranger, " to tell you
of two new school-houses, two miles apart, at
each of which a master is wanted." How
this person came to hear of us, who arrived
but the night before, I never knew. I was
glad he was not a Quaker, lest it should have
been thought a plot by my husband, to whom
I turned and said, — " My dear, look on me
with pity, if thou hast any afiection left for



me, which I hope thou hast, for I am not con-
scious of having done any thing to alienate it.
Here is an opportunity to settle us both, and I
am willing to do all in my power, towards
getting an honest livelihood." After a short
pause, he consented to go with the young
man. In our way, we came to the house of
a worthy Friend, who was a preacher, though
we did not know it. I was surprised to see
the people so kind to us. We had not been
long in the house, till we were invited to lodge
there for the night, being the last of the week.
My husband accepted the invitation, saying,
" My wife has had a tedious travel, and I pity
her." These kind expressions affected me,
for I heard them very seldom. The Friend's
kindness could not proceed from my appear-
ing like a Quaker, because I had not yet al-
tered my dress. The woman of the house,
after we had concluded to stay, fixed her eyes
upon me, and said, " I believe thou hast met
with a deal of trouble," to which I made but
little answer. My husband observing they
were of that sort of people whom he had so
much endeavoured to shun, gave us no oppor-
tunity for discourse that night; but the next
morning, I let my friend know a little of my
situation.

When meeting time came I longed to go,
but dared not to ask my husband's leave. As
the Friends were getting ready themselves,
they asked him if he would accompany them,
observing, that they knew those who were to
be his employers, and if they were at meeting,
would speak to them. He consented. The
woman Friend then said, " And wilt thou let
thy wife go too ;" which request he denied ;
but she answered his objections so prudently
that he could not be angry, and at last con-
sented. I went with joy, and a heavenly
meeting it was. My spirit did rejoice in the
God of my salvation. May I ever in hu-
mility, preserve the remembrance of his ten-
der mercies to me.

By the end of the week, we got settled in
our new situation. We took a room in a
Friend's house, one mile from each school,
and eight from the meeting-house. I now
deemed it proper to let my husband see I was
determined to join with Friends. When first-
day came, I directed myself to him in this
manner; "My dear, art thou willing to let
me go to meeting?" He flew into a rage, and
replied, " No you shan't." Speaking firmly,
I told him, " That as a dutiful wife, I was
ready to obey all his lawful commands ; but
when they imposed upon my conscience, I
could not obey him. I had already wronged
myself, in having done it too long ; and
though he was near to me, and as a wile
ought, I loved him, yet God, who was nearer



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LIFE OF ELIZABETH ASHBRIDGE.



than all the world to roe, had made me sen-
sible that this was the way in which I ought
to go. I added, that this was no small cross
to my own will ; but I had given up my heart,
and I trusted that He who called for it would
enable me for the remainder of my life, to
keep it steadily devoted to his service ; and I
hoped I should not on this account, make the
worse wife." I spoke however, to no pur-
pose ; — he continued inflexible.
• I had now put my hand to the plough, and
resolved not to draw back ; I therefore went
without leave. I expected he would immedl
ately follow and force me back, but he did
not. I called at the house of one of the
neighbours, and getting a girl to show me the
way, I went on rejoicing and praising God in
my heart.

Thus for some time, I had to go eight miles
on foot to meeting, which I never thought
hard. My husband had a horse, but he would
not suffer me to ride on it; nor when my
shoes were worn out, would he let me have a
new pair; but though he hoped on this ac-
count to keep me from meeting, it did not
hinder me: — I have tied them round with
strings to keep them on.

Finding that all the means he had yet used
could not alter my resolutions, he several
times struck me severe blows. I endeavoured
to bear all with patience, believing that the
time would come when he would see I was in
the right. Once he came up to me, took out
his penknife and said, " If you offer to go to
meeting to-morrow, with this knife I'll cripple
you, for you shall not be a Quaker." I made
him no answer. In the morning I set out as
usual ; and he did not attempt to harm me. —
Having despaired of recovering me himself, he
fled for help to the priest, whom he told that
I had been a very religious woman, in the
way of the Church of England ; of which I
was a member and had a good certificate from
Long Island ; that I was now bewitched and
had turned Quaker, which almost broke his
heart; and therefore, he desired that as he
was one who had the care of souls, he would
come and pay me a visit and use his endea-
vours to reclaim me, which he hoped by the
blessing of God, would be done. The priest
consented and fixed the time for his coming,
which was that day two weeks, as he said he
could not come sooner. My husband came
home extremely pleased, and told me of it. I
replied with a smile, I trusted I should be en-
abled to give a reason for the hope within me;
yet I believed at the same time, that the priest
would never trouble himself about me, which
proved to be the case. Before the day he ap-
pointed came, it was required of me in a more
Dublic manner, to confess to the world what I



was. I felt myself called to give up to prayer
in meeting. I trembled, and would freely have
given up my life to be excused. What ren-
dered the required service harder was, that I
was not yet taken under the care of Friends ;
and was kept from requesting to be so, for
fear I should bring a scandal on the Society.
I hegged to be excused till I had joined, and
then I would give up freely. The answer
was, " I am a covenant-keeping God, and the
word that I spake to thee when I found thee
in distress, even that I would never forsake
thee if thou wouldst be obedient to what I
should make known unto thee, I will assured-
ly make good. If thou refusest, my spirit
shall not always strive. Fear not, I will
make way for thee through all thy difiiculties,
which shall be many for my name's sake;
but be faithful, and I will give thee a crown
of life." To this language I answered, " Thy
will, O God, be done ; I am in thy hand, do
with me according to thy word ;" and I then
prayed.

This day as usual, I had gone to meeting
on foot While my husband, as he after-
wards told me, was lying on the bed, these
words crossed his mind : '* Lord, where shall
I fiy to shun thee," &c.; upon which he arose,
and seeing it rain, got the horse and set off to
fetch roe, arriving just as the meeting broke
up. I got on horseback as quickly as possi-
ble, lest he should hear I had been speaking ;
he did hear of it nevertheless, and as soon as
we were in the woods, began with saying,
'' Why do you mean thus to make my life un-
happy? What, could you not be a Quaker,
without turning fool in this manner?" I an-
swered in tears, '* My dear, look on me with
pity if thou hast any ; canst thou think that
I, in the bloom of my days, would bear all
that thou knowest of and much that thou
knowest not of, if I did not feel it my duty ?"
These words touched him, and he said, " Well,
I'll e'en give you up ; I see it won't avail to
strive; if it be of God I cannot overthrow it;
and if^ of yourself, it will soon fall." I saw
the tears stand in his eyes, at which I was
overcome with joy, and began already to reap
the fruits of my obedience. But my trials
were not yet over. The time appointed for
the priest to visit me arrived, but no priest
appeared. My husband went to fetch him,
but he refused, saying he was busy, which so
displeased my husband that he never went to
hear him again, and for some time went to no
place of worship.

My faith was now assaulted in another way
so strongly, that all my former trials were but
trifiing to it. This exercise came upon me
unexpectedly, by hearing a woman speak of
a book she had read, in which it was asserted



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LIFE OF ELIZABETH ASHBRIDGE.



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that Christ was not the Son of God. A voice
within me seemed to answer, ''No more is he,
it's all a fancy, and the contrivance of men."
Thus again was I filled with inexpressible
trouble, which continued three weeks; and
again did I seek desolate places, where I
might make my moan. I have laid whole
nights without sleep. I thought myself de-
serted of God, but did not let go my trust in
him. I kept alive a hope, that He who had
delivered me as it were out of the paw of the
bear, and the jaws of the Hon, would in his
own good time, deliver me from this tempta-
tion also. This was at length my experience;
and I found the truth of his words, that all
things shall work together for the good of
those who love and fear him. My present
exercises were to prepare me for further ser-
vices in his cause ; and it is necessary for his
ministers to experience many baptisms, that
they may thereby be more able to speak to
the conditions of others.

This happened just afler my first appear-
ance as a minister, and Friends had not been
to talk with me. They did not well know
what to do until I appeared again, which



Online LibraryWilliam EvansThe Friends' library: comprising journals, doctrinal treatieses, & other writings of members of the religious Society of Freinds → online text (page 5 of 104)