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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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. and charity. He was for many years deeply
exercised on account of the poor enslaved
Africans, whose cause, as he sometimes men-
tioned, lay almost continually upon him, and
to obtain liberty to those captives, he laboured
both in public and private, and was favoured
to see his endeavours, crowned with consider-
able success. He was particularly desirous
that Friends should not be instrumental to lay
burthens on this oppressed people, but remem-
ber the days of suffering from which they
had been providentially delivered, that if times
of trouble should return, no injustice dealt
to those in slavery might rise in judgment
against us, but, being clear, we might on
such occasions address the Almighty with a
degree of confidence, for his interposition and
relief,' being particularly careful as to him-
self, not to countenance slavery, even by the
use of those conveniences of life which were
furnished by their labour.

He was desirous to have his own mind, and
the minds of others, redeemed from the plea-
sures and immoderate profits of this world,
and to fix them on those joys which fade not
away; his principal care being afler a life of
purity, endeavouring to avoid not only the
grosser pollutions, but those also, which ap-
pearing in a more refined dress, are not suffi-
ciently guarded against by some well disposed
pisople. In the latter part of his life he was
remarkable for the plainness and simplicity of
his dress, and as much as possible, avoided
the use of plate, costly furniture and feasting;
thereby endeavouring to become an example



of temperance and self-denial, which he be-
lieved himself called unto, and was favoured
with peace therein, although it carried the
appearance of great austerity in the view of
some. He was very moderate in his charges
in the way of business, and in his desires
after gain; and though a man of industry,
avoided and strove much to lead others out
of extreme labour and anxiousness after per-
ishable things; being desirous that the strength
of our bodies might not be spent in procuring
things unprofitable, and that we might use
moderation and kindness to the brute animals
under our care, to prize the use of them as a
great favour, and by no means to abuse them ;
that the giAs of Providence should be thank-
fully received and applied to the uses they
were designed for.

He several times opened a school at Mount
Holly, for the instruction of poor Friends'
children and others, being concerned for their
help and improvement therein. His love and
care for the rising youth among us was truly
great, recommending to parents and those
who. have the charge of them, to choose con-
scientious and pious tutors, saying, ** It is a
lovely sight to behold innocent children,** and
" to labour for their help against that which
would mar the beauty of their minds, is a
debt we owe them."

His ministry was sound, very deep and
penetrating, sometimes pointing out the dan-
gerous situation which indulgence and custom
lead into ; frequently exhorting others, espe-
cially the youth, not to be discouraged at the
difficulties which occur, but to press afler puri-
ty. He oflen expressed an earnest engage-
ment that pure wisdom should be attended to,
which would lead into lowliness of mind and
resignation to the Divine will, in which state
small possessions here would be sufficient.

In transacting the affairs of discipline, his
judgment was sound and clear, and he was
very useful in treating with those who had
done amiss : he visited such in a private way
in that plainness which Truth dictates, show-
ing great tenderness and Christian forbear-
ance. He was a constant attender of our
Yearly Meeting, in which he was a good ex-
ample, and particularly useful ; assisting in
the business thereof with great weight and
attention. He several times visited most of
the meetings of Friends in this and the neigh-
bouring provinces, with the concurrence of
the Monthly Meeting to which he belonged,
and we have reason to believe had good ser-
vice therein, generally or always expressing
at his return how it had fared with him, and
the evidence of peace in his mind for thus
performing his duty. He was oflen concerned



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LIFE OF JOHN WOOLMAN.



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with other Friends in the important service
of visiting families, which he was enabled to
go through to satisfaction.

In the minutes of the meeting of ministers
and elders for this quarter, at the foot of a
list of the members of that meeting, made
about five years before his death, we find in
his hand writing the following observation
and reflections. *' As looking over the min-
utes made by persons who have put off this
body, hath sometimes revived in me a thought
how ages pass away; so this list may proba-
bly revive a like thought in some, when I and
the rest of the persons above-named, are cen-
tered in another state of being. — ^The Lord,
who was the guide of my youth, hath in ten-
der mercies helped me hitherto; he hath healed
me of wounds, he hath . helped me out of
grievous entanglements ; he remains to be the
strength of my life ; to whom I desire to de-
vote myself in time, and in eternity.

" Signed, John Woolman."

In the twelflh month, 1771, he acquainted
this meeting that he found his mind drawn
towards a religious visit to Friends in some
parts of England, particularly in Yorkshire,
lo the first month, 1772, he obtained our cer-
tificate, which was approved and endorsed by
our Quarterly Meeting, and by the Half-year's
meeting of ministers and elders at Philadel-
phia. He embarked on his voyage in the



fifth, and arrived in London in the sixth
month following, at the time of their annual
meeting in that city. During his short visit
to Friends in that kingdom, we are informed
that his services were acceptable and edifying.
In his last illness he uttered many lively and
comfortable expressions, being '* perfectly re-
signed, having no will either to live or die,"
as appears by the testimony of Friends at
York, in Great Britain, in the suburbs where-
of, at the house of our friend Thomas Priest-
man, he died of the small-pox, on the 7th day
of the tenth month, 1772, and was buried in
Friends' burying-ground in that city, on the
9th of the same, afler a large and solid meet-
ing held on the occasion, aged nearly fidy-two
years; a minister upwards of thirty years,
during which time he belonged to Mount Hol-
ly particular Meeting, which he diligently at-
tended when at home and in beahh of body,
and his labours of love and pious care for the
prosperity of Friends in the blessed Truth, we
hope may not be forgotten, but that his good
works may be remembered to edification.
Signed in, and by order of the said meeting, by
Samubl Axlinson, Clerk.

Read and approved at our Quarterly Meet-
ing, held at Burlington the 29th of the eighth
month, 1774.

Signed by order of said meeting,

Daniel Skith, Clerk.



LIFE OF JOHN WOOLMAN.



CHAPTER I.
HU birth and parentage, with some account of
the operations of IHvine grace on his mind in
his youth — his first appearance in the minis-
try — considerations while young on keeping
slaves,

I HAVB of\en felt a motion of love to leave
some hints in writing of my experience of the
goodness of God; and now, in the thirty-
sixth year of my age, I begin this work.

I was bom in Northampton, in Burlington
county. West Jersey, in the year 1720 ; and
before I was seven years old I began to be
acquainted with the operations of Divine love.
Through the care of my parents, I was taught
to read nearly as soon as I was capable of it ;
and as I went from school one seventh-day,
I remember, while my companions went to
play by the way, I went forward out of sight,
and sitting down, I read the twenty-second

Vol. IV.— No. 9.



chapter of the Revelations ; ^' He showed me
a pure river of water of life, clear as crystal,
proceeding out of the throne of God and of
the Lamb, &c. ;" and in reading it, my mind
was drawn to seek afler that pure habitation,
which, I then believed, God had prepared for
his servants. The place where I sat, and the
sweetness that attended my mind, remain
fresh in my memory.

This, and the like gracious visitations, had
such an effect upon me, that when boys used
ill language, it troubled me ; and through the
continued mercies of God, I was preserved
from it.

The pious instructions of my parents were
oflen fresh in my mind when I happened to be
among wicked children, and were of use to
me. My parents having a large family of
children, used frequently on first-days afler
meeting, to put us to read in the Holy Scrip-
tures, or some religious books, one after an-
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LIFE PF JOHN WOOLMAN.



other, the rest sittiag by without much con-
versation ; which, I have since often thought,
was a good practice. From what I had read
and heard, I believed there had been, in past
ages, people who walked in uprightness be*-
fore God, in a degree exceeding any that I
knew or heard of, now living : and the appre-
hension of there being less steadiness and
firmness amongst people in this age than in
past ages, oflen troubled me while I was a
child.

A thing remarkable in my childhood was,
that once going to' a neighbour's house, I saw
on the way, a robin sitting on her nest, and
as I came near she went off, but, having young
ones, flew about and with many cries ex-
pressed her concern for them. I stood and
threw stones at her, till one striking her, she
fell down dead: at first I was pleased with
the exploit, but after a few minutes was seized
with horror, for having, in a sportive way,
killed an innocent creature while she was
careful for her young. I beheld her lying
dead, and thought those young ones, for
which she was so careful, must now perish
for want of their dam to nourish them ; and
after some painful considerations on the sub-
ject, I climbed up the tree, took all the young
birds and killed them, supposing that better
than to leave them to pine away and die
miserably; and believed, in this case, that
Scripture proverb was fulfilled, «' The tender
mercies of the wicked are cruel." I then
went on my errand, but, for sonne hours,
could think of little else but the cruelties I
had committed, and was much troubled.
Thus He, whose tender mercies are over all
his works, hath placed a principle in the hu-
man mind, which incites to exercise goodness
towards every living creature; and this being
singly attended to, people become tender-heart-
ed and sympathizing; but being frequently and
totally rejected, the mind becomes shut up in
a contrary disposition.

About the twelfth year of my age, my fa-
ther being abroad, my mother reproved me
lor some misconduct, to which I made an un-
dutiftil reply; and the next first-day, as- 1 was
with my father returning from meeting, he
told me he understood I had behaved amiss
to my mother, and advised me to be more
careful in future. I knew myself blameable,
and in shame and confusion remained silent.
Being thus awakened to a sense of my wick-
edness, I felt remorse in my mind, and getting
home, I retired and prayed to the Lord to for-
give me ; and do not remember that I ever,
after that, spoke unhandsomely to either ef
my parents, however foolish in some other
things.

Having attained the age of sixteen years,



I began to love wanton company ; and though
I was preserved from profane language, or
scandalous conduct, still I perceived a p^ant
in me which produced many wild grapes.
Yet my merciful Father forsook me not ut-
terly, but at times, through his grace, I was
brought seriously to consider my ways ; and
the sight of my backslidings afiected me with
sorrow; but for want of rightly attending to
the reproofs of instruction, vanity was added
to vanity, and repentance to repentance. Upon
the whole, my mind was more and more alien*
ated from the Truth, and I hastened toward
destruction. While I meditate on the gulf
towards which I travelled, and reflect on my
youthful disobedience, for these things I weqn
mine eye runneth down with water.

Advancing in age, the number of my ac-
quaintance increased, and thereby my way
grew more difiicult. Though I had found
comfort in reading the Holy Scriptures, and
thinking on heavenly things, I was now es-
tranged therefrom. I knew that I was going
from the flock of Christ, and had no rraolu-
tion to return ; hence serious reflections were
uneasy to me, and youthful vanities and di-
versions my greatest pleasure. Running in
this road I found many like myself; and we
associated in that which is the reverse to true
friendship.

But in this swift race it pleased God to visit
me with sickness, so that I doubted of reco-
vering; and then did darkness, horror and
amazement, with full force, seize me, even
when my pain and distress of body were y^ery
great I thought it would have been better
for me never to have had a being, than to see
the day which I now saw. I was filled with
confusion ; and in great aflliction, both of
mind and body, 1 lay and bewailed myself.
I had not confidence to lift up my cries to
God, whom I had thus ofiended; but in a
deep sense of my great folly, I was humbled
before him : and at length, that word which
is as a fire and a hammer, broke and dis-
solved my rebellious heart, and then my cries
were put up in contrition ; and in the multi-
tude of his mercies I found inward relief,
and felt a close engagement, that if he was
pleased to restore my health, I might walk
humbly before him.

After my recovery, this exercise remained
with me a considerable time ; but by d^reea,
giving way to youthful vanities, they gained
strength, and getting with wanton young people
I lost ground. The Lord had been very gra-
cious, and had spoken peace to me in the time
of my distress ; and I now most ungratefully
turned again to folly; on which account, at
times, I felt sharp reproof, but did not get low
enough to cry for help. I was not so hardy



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LIFB OP JOHN WOOLMAN.



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as to commit things scandalous; but to ex-
ceed in vanity and promote mirth, were my
chief study. Still I retained a love and es-
teem for pious people; and their company
brought an awe upon me. My dear parents,
several times admonished roe in the fear of
the Lord, and their admonition entered into
my heart, and had a good efiect for a season ;
but not getting deep enough to pray rightly,
the tempter, when he came, found entrance.
f remember that once, having spent a part of
the day in wantonness, as I went to bed at night,
a Bible lay in a window near my bed, which
I opened, and first cast my eye on the text,
** we lie down in our shame, and our confu-
sion covers us ;" this I knew to be my case ;
and meeting with so unexpected a reproof, I
was somewhiit aflbcted with it, and went to
bed under remorse of conscience; which I
soon cast off again.

Thus time passed on: my heart was replen-
ished with mirth and wantonness, while pleas-
ing scenes of vanity were presented to my
imagination, till I attained the age of eighteen
years ; near whidi time I felt the judgments
of God in my soul, like a consuming fire;
and looking over my past life, the prospect
was moving. I was often sad, and longed to
be delivered from those vanities ; then again,
my heart was strongly inclined to them, and
there was in me a sore conflict At times I
turned to folly ; and then sorrow and confu-
sion took hold of me. In a while, I resolved
totally to leave off some of my vanities; but
there was a secret reserve in my heart, of the
more refined part of them, and I was not low
enough to find true peace. Thus, fer some
months, I had great troubles, there remaining
in me an unsubjected will, which rendered my
labours fruitless, till at length, through thie
merciful continuance of heavenly visitations,
I was made to bdw down in spirit before the
Lord. I remember one evening I had spent
some time in reading a pious author; and
walking out alone, I humbly prayed to the
Lord for his help, that I might be delivered
from all those vanities which so ensnared me.
Thus being brought low, he helped me ; and
as I learned to bear the cross, I felt refresh*
mentto come from his presence; but not keep-
ing in that strength which save victory, I lost
ground again ; the sense of which greatly af-
fected me; and I sought deserts and lonely
places, and there with tears did confess my
sins to Gkxl, and humbly craved help of him.
I may say with reverence, he was near to me
in my troubles, and in those times of humi-
liadon opened my ear to discipline. I was
BOW led to look seriously at the means by
which I was drawn from'the pure truth, and
learned thisi that if I would live in the life



which the faithful servants of God lived in,
I must not go into company as heretofore in
my own will ; but all the cravings of sense
must be governed by a Divine principle. In
times of sorrow and abasement these instruc-
tions were sealed upon me, and I felt the pow-
er of Christ prevail over selfish desires, so
that I was preserved in a good degree of stea-
diness; and beinff young, and ^lieving, at
that time, that a smgle life was best for me, I
was strengthened to keep from such company
as had often been a snare to me.

I kept steadily to meetings ; spent first-day
afternoon chiefly in reading the Scriptures
and other good books; and was early con-
vinced in my mind, that true religion con-
sisted in an inward life, wherein the heart
doth love and reverence God the Creator, and
learns to exercise true justice and goodness,
not only toward all men, but also toward the
brute creatures. That as the mind is moved
by an inward principle, to love God as an in-
visible incomprehensible Being ; by the same
principle it is moved to love him in all his
manifestations in the visible world. That, as
by his breath the flame of life was kindled in
all sensible creatures, to say we love God as
unseen, and, at the same time, exercise cru-
elty toward the least creature moving by his
life, or by life derived from him, is a contra*
diction in itself.

I fbund no narrowness respecting sects and
opinions; but believed, that sincere upright*
hearted people, in every society, who truly
k)ve God, were accepted of him.

As I lived under the cross, and simply fol-
lowed the openings of Truth, my mind, from
day to day, was more enlightened ; my former
acquaintance were left to judge of me as they
would, for I found it safest for me to live in
private, and to keep these things sealed up in
my own breast. While I silently ponder on that
change wrought in me, I find no language
equal to [describe] it, nor any means to con-
vey to another a clear idea of it. I looked
upon the works of God in this visible crea-
tion, and an awfulness covered me ; my heart
was tender and often contrite, and universal
love to my fellow-crei^tures increased in me :
this will be understqod by such who have trod<«
den in the same path.

Some glances of real beauty may be seen
in their faces who dwell in true meekness.
There is a harmony In the sound of that voice
to which Divine love gives utterance, and
some appearance of right order in their tem-
per and conduct, whose passions are regu*
lated ; yet all these do not fully show forth
that inward life to such who have not felt it :
but this white stone and new name are known
rightly to such only who have them.



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LIFE OP JOHN WOOLMAN.



Though I had been thus streogthened to
bear the cross, I still found myself in great
danger, having many weaknesses attending
me, and strong temptations to wrestle with ;
in the feeling whereof I frequently withdrew
into private places, and often with tears be-
sought the Lord to help me, whose gracious
ear was open to my cry.

All this time I lived with my parents, and
wrought on the plantation; and having had
schooling pretty well for a planter, I used to
improve it in winter evenings, and other lei-
sure times ; and being now in the twenty-first
year of my age, a man, in much business at
shop-keeping and baking, asked me if I would
hire with him to tend shop and keep books.
I acquainted my father with the proposal;
and, after some deliberation, it was agreed for
me to go.

At home I had lived retired ; and now hav-
ing a prospect of being much in the way of
company, 1 felt frequent and fervent cries in
my heart to God, the Father of mercies, that
he would preserve me from all taint and cor-
ruption ; that, in this more public employment,
I might serve Him, my gracious Redeemer, in
that humility and self-denial, with which I had
been, in a small degree, exercised in a more
private life. The man, who employed me,
furnished a shop in Mount Holly, about five
miles from my father's house, and six from
his own ; and there I lived alone, and tended
his shop. Shortly after my settlement here,
I was visited by several young people my for-
mer acquaintance, who knew not but vanities
would be as agreeable to me now as ever ;
and, at these times, I cried to the Lord in se-
cret for wisdom and strength ; for I felt my-
self encompassed with difficulties, and had
fresh occasion to bewail the follies of time
past, in contracting a familiarity with liber
tine people : and as I had now left my father's
house outwardly, I found my heavenly Father
to be merciful to me beyond what I can ex-
press*

By day I was much amongst people, and
had many trials to go through; but in the
evenings, I was mostly alone, and may with
thankfulness acknowledge, that, in those times,
the spirit of supplication was often poured
upon me ; under which I was frequently ex-
ercised, and felt my strength renewed.

In a few months after I came here, my
master bought several Scotchmen as servants,
from on board a vessel, and brought them to
Mount Holly to sell ; one of whom was taken
sick, and died.

In the latter part of his sickness, he, being
delirious, used to curse and swear most sor-
rowfully ; and the next night after his burial,
I was left to sleep alone in the same chamber



where he died. I perceived in me a timorous-
ness ; I knew, however, that I had not injured
the man, but assisted in taking care of him ac-
cording to my capacity ; and was not free to
ask any one, on that occasion, to sleep with
me : nature was feeble ; but every trial was a
fresh incitement to give myself up wholly to
the service of God, for I found no helper like
him in times of trouble.

After awhile, my former acquaintance gave
over expecting me as one of their company ;
and I began to be, known to some whose con-
versation was helpful to me. As I had expe-
rienced the love of God, through Jesus Christ,
to redeem me from many pollutions, and to be
a succour to me through a sea of conflicts,
with which no person was fully acquainted,
and as my heart was often enlarged in this
heavenly principle, I felt a tender compassion
for the youth, who remained entangled in
snares like those which had entangled me
from one time to another : this love and ten-
derness increased; and my mind was more
strongly engaged for the good of my fellow-
creatures* I went to meetings in an awful
frame of mind, and • endeavoured to be in-
wardly acquainted with the language of the
true Shepherd ; and one day, being under a
strong exercise of spirit, I stood up, and said
some words in a meeting; but not keeping
close to the Divine opening, I said more than
was required of me ; and being soon sensible
of my error, I was afflicted in mind some
weeks, without any light or comfort, ewen to
such a degree that I could not take satisfaction
in anything. I remembered God and was
troubled ; and, in the depth of my distress, he
had pity upon me, and sent the Comforter. I
then felt forgiveness for my ofience, and my
mind became calm and quiet, being truly
thankful to my gracious Redeemer for his
mercies; and after this, feeling the spring of
Divine love opened, and a concern to speak,
I said a few words in a meeting, in which I
found peace; this, I believe, was about six
weeks from the first time. As I was thus
humbled and disciplined under the cross, my
understanding became more strengthened to
distinguish the pure Spirit which inwardly
moves upon the heart, and taught me to wait
in silence, sometimes many weeks together,
until I felt that rise which prepares the crea-
ture to stand like a trumpet, through which
the Lord speaks to his flock.

From an inward purifying, and a steadfiist
abiding under it, springs a lively operative



Online LibraryWilliam EvansThe Friends' library: comprising journals, doctrinal treatieses, & other writings of members of the religious Society of Freinds → online text (page 72 of 104)