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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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great estates, attend with singleness of heart
to this heavenly Instructor, which so opens
and enlarges the mind, that men love their
neighbours as themselves, they would have
wisdom given them to manage, without find-
ing occasion to employ some people in the
luxuries of life, or to make it necessary for
others to labour too hard; but for want of
steadily regarding this principle of Divine
love, a selfish spirit takes place in the minds
of people, which is attended with darkness
and manifold confusions in the world.

Though trading in things useful is an ho-
nest employ; yet, through the great number
of superfluities which are bought and sold,
and through the corruption of the times, they
who apply to merchandize for a living, have
great need to be well experienced in that pre-
cept which the prophet Jeremiah laid down
for his scribe; '^Seekest thou great things
for thyself? seek them not."

In the winter, this year, I was engaged
with Friends in visiting families ; and through
the goodness of the Lord, we had oftentimes



experience of his heart-tendering presence
amongst us.

A copy of a letter written to a Friend,

In this thy late affliction I have found a
deep fellow-feeling with thee; and had a
secret hope throughout, that it might please
the Father of mercies to raise thee up, and
sanctify thy troubles to thee ; that thou being
more fully acquainted with that way which
the world esteems foolish, may feel the cloth-
ing of Divine fortitude, and be strengthened
to resist that spirit which leads from the sim-
plicity of the everlasting Truth.

We may see ourselves crippled and halting,
and from a strong bias to things pleasant and
easy, find an impossibility to advance; but
things impossible with men are possible with
God; and our wills being made subject to his,
all temptations are surmountable.

This work of subjecting the will, is com-
pared to the mineral in the furnace ; which,
through fervent heat, is reduced from its first
principle : " He refines them as silver is re-
fined — He shall sit as a refiner, and purifier
of silver." By these comparisons, we are
instructed in the necessity of the melting
operation of the hand of God upon us, to
prepare our hearts truly to adore him, and to
manifest that adoration, by inwardly turning
away from that spirit, in all its workings,
which is not of him. To forward this work,
the all-wise God is sometimes pleased, through
outward distress, to bring us near the gates of
death, that life being painful and afflictiiig,
and the prospect of eternity open before us,
all earthly bonds may be loosenedf and the
mind prepared for that deep and sacred in-
struction, which otherwise would not be re-
ceived. If ki^d parents love their children
and delight in their happiness, then He, who
is perfect goodness, in sending abroad mortal
contagions, doth assuredly direct their use.
Are the righteous removed by it, their change
is happy ; are the wicked taken away lo their
wickedness, the Almighty is clear. Do we
pass through with anguish and great bitter-
ness, and yet recover, he intends that we
should be purged from dross, and our ear
opened to discipline.

And now on thy part, afler thy sore afflic-
tion and doubts of recovery, thou art again
restored; forget not Him who hath helped
thee, but in humble gratitude hold fast his
instructions, thereby to shun those by-paths
which lead from the firm foundation. I am
sensible of that variety of company, to which
one in thy business must be exposed : I have
painfully felt the force of conversation pro-
ceeding from men deeply rooted in an earthly



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LIFE OF JOHN WOOLMAN.



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miod, and can sympathize with others in such
conflicts, in that much weakness still attends
me.

I find that to be a fool as to worldly wis-
dom, and commit my cause to God, not fear-
ing to oflend men, who take oflence at the
simplicity of Truth, is the only way to remain
unmoved at the sentiments of others.

The fear of man brings a snare ; by halt-
ing in our duty, and giving back in the time
of trial, our hands grow weaker, our spirits
get mingled with the people, our ears grow
dull as to hearing the language of the true
Shepherd, so that when we look at the way
of the righteous, it seems as though it was
not for us to follow them.

There is a love clothes my mind while I
write, which is superior to all expressions ;
and I find my heart open to encourage to a
holy emulation, to advance in Christian firm-
ness. Deep humility is a strong bulwark;
and as we enter into it, we find safety and
true exaltation: the foolishness of God is
wiser than man, and the weakness of God is
stronger than man. Being unclothed of our
own wisdom, and knowing the abasement of
the creature, therein we find that power to
arise, which gives health and vigor to us.



CHAPTER IV.
His visiting ike families of Friends at Burling-
ton — His journey to Pennsylvania^ Maryland,
Virginia and North Carolina— XJonsiderations
on the state of Friends there^ and the exer-
cise he was under in travelling among those
concerned in keeping slaves: toith some ob-
servations on this subject — His epistle to
Friends at New Garden and Cane creek — His
thoughts on the neglect of a religious care in
the education of the negroes,

Thb 13th day of the second month, in the
year 1757, being then in good health, and
abroad with Friends visiting families, I lodged
at a Friend's house in Burlington ; and going
to bed about the time usual with me, I awoke
in the night, and my meditations, as I lay,
were on the goodness and mercy of the Lord ;
in a sense whereof my heart was contrite.
Afler this, I went to sleep again; and sleeping
a ^hort time, I awoke ; it was yet dark, and
no appearance of day or moonshine; and
as I opened mine eyes, I saw a light in my
chamber at the apparent distance of five feet,
about nine inches diameter, of a clear easy
brightness, and near its centre the most radi
ent. As I lay still without any surprise
iookine upon it, words were spoken to my
inward ear, which filled my whole inward



man : they were not the effect of thought,
nor any conclusion in relation to the appear-
ance, but as the language of the Holy One
spoken in my mind; the words were, Cbh-
TAiN Evidence op Divine Truth; and
were again repeated exactly in the same
manner; whereupon the light disappeared.

Feeling the exercise in relation to a visit to
the southern provinces to increase upon me,
I acquainted our Monthly Meeting therewith,
and obtained their certificate. Expecting to
go alone, one of my brothers, who lived in
Philadelphia, having some business in North
Carolina, proposed going with me part of the
way; but as he had a view of some outward
affairs, to accept of him as a companion
seemed some difiliculty with me. I had con-
versation with him at sundry times, and at
length, feeling easy in my mind, I had con-
versation with several elderly Friends of Phil-
adelphia on the subject ; and he obtaining a
certificate suitable to the occasion, we set ofif
in the fiilh month of the year 1757. Coming
to Nottingham week-day meeting, we lodged
at John Churchman^s, and here I met with
our friend Benjamin Bufilington, from New
England, who was returning from a visit to
the southern provinces. Thence we crossed
the river Susquehanna, and lodged at William
Cox*s in Maryland ; and soon afler I entered
this province, a deep and painful exercise
came upon me, of which I had oflen had some
feeling since my mind was drawn toward
these parts, and with which I had acquainted
my brother before we agreed to join as com-
panions.

As the people in this and the southern pro*
vinces live much on the labour of slaves,
many of whom are used hardly, my concern
was, that I might attend with singleness of
heart to the voice of the true Shepherd, and
be so supported as to remain unmoved at the
faces of men.

As it is common for Friends on such a
visit to have entertainment free of cost, a dif-
ficulty arose in my mind with respect to
saving my money by kindness received,
which to me appeared to be the gain of op-
pression.

Receiving a gifl, considered as a gifl,
brings the receiver under obligations to the
benefactor, and has a natural tendency to
draw the obliged into a party with the giver.
To prevent difficulties of this kind, and to
preserve the minds of judges from any bias,
was that Divine prohibition ; " Thou shalt not
receive any gifl : for a gifl blindeth the wise,
and perverteth the words of the righteous.'*
As the disciples were sent forth without any
provision for their journey, and our Lord said
the workman is worthy of his meat, their la*



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LIFE OF JOHN WOOLMAN.



bour in the Gospel was coDsidered as a re-
ward for their entertainment, and therefore
not received as a gif\ ; yet, in regard to my
present journey, I could not see my way clear
in that respect. The difference appeared thus:
The entertainment the disciples met with, was
from such whose hearts God had opened to
receive them, from a love to them, and the
truth they published. But we, considered as
members of the same religious Society, look
upon it as a piece of civility to receive each
other in such visits; and such reception, at
times, is partly in regard to reputation, and
not from an inward unity of heart and spirit.
Conduct is more convincing than language;
and where people, by their actions, manifest
that the slave-trade is not so disagreeable to
their principles but that it may be encouraged,
there is not a sound uniting with some Friends
who visit them.

The prospect of so weighty a work, and
being so distinguished from many whom I es-
teemed before myself, brought me very low ;
and such were the conflicts of my soul, that
I had a near sympathy with the prophet, in
the time of his weakness, when he said, *' If
thou deal thus with me, kill me, I pray thee,
if I have found favour in thy sight ;" but I
soon saw that this proceeded from the want
of a full resignation to the Divine will. Many
were the afflictions which attended me ; and
in great abasement, with many tears, my
cries were to the Almighty, for his gracious
and fatherly assistance; and then, aflera time
of deep trial, I was favoured to understand
the state mentioned by the psalmist, more
clearly than ever I had before ; to wit : " My
soul is even as a weaned child." Being thus
helped to sink down into resignation, I felt a
deliverance from that tempest in which I had
been sorely exercised, and in calmness of
mind went forward, trusting that the Lord
Jesus Christ, as I faithfully attended to him,
would be a counsellor to me in all difficulties;
and that by his strength I should be enabled
even to leave money with the members of
Society where I had entertainment, when I
found that omitting it would obstruct that
work to which I believed he had called me.
And as I copy this after my return, I may
add, that oftentimes I did so, under a sense of
duty. The way in which I did it was thus ;
when I expected soon to leave a Friend's
house where I had had entertainment, if I be-
lieved that I should not keep clear from the
gain of oppression without leaving money, I
spoke to one of the heads of the family pri-
vately, and desired him to accept of some
pieces of silver, and give them to such of the
negroes as he believed would make the best
use of them ; and at other times I gave them



to the negroes myself, as the way looked
clearest to me. As I expected this before I
came out, I had provided a large number of
small pieces ; and thus offering them to some
who appeared to be wealthy people, was a
trial both to me and them : but the fear of the
Lord so covered me at times, that my way
was made easier than I expected ; and few, if
any, manifested any resentment at the ofl^r,
and most of them, after some talk, accepted
of them.

The 7th day of the fifth month, in the year
1757, I lodged at a Friend's house ; and the
next day being the first of the week, was at
PatapsGO meeting; then crossed Patuxent
river, and lodged at a public house.

On the 9th breakfasted at a Friend's house;
who putting us a little on our way, I had con-
versation with him in the fear of the Lord,
concerning his slaves; in which my heart
was tender, and I used much plainness of
speech with him, which he appeared to take
kindly. We pursued our journey without
appointing meetings, being pressed in my
mind to be at the Yearly Meeting in Virginia.
In my travelling on the road, I often felt a
cry rise from the centre of my mind, O Lord,
I am a stranger on the earth, hide not thy
face from me. On the 11th day of the fifth
month, we crossed the rivers Potomac and
Rappahannock, and lodged at Port Royal:
and on the way happening in company with
a colonel of the militia, who appeared to be a
thoughtful man, I took occasion to remark on
the difference in general between a people
used to labour moderately for their living,
training up their children in frugality and
business, and those who live on the lalxNir of
slaves; the former, in my view, being the
most happy life: with which he concurred,
and mentioned the trouble arising from the
untoward, slothful disposition of the negroes;
adding, that one of our labourers would do
as much in a day as two of their slaves. I
replied, that free men, whose minds were
properly on their business, found a satisiac-
tion in improving, cultivating and providing
for their families; but negroes, labouring to
support others who claim them as their pro-
perty, and expecting nothing but slavery da-
ring life, had not the like inducement to be
industrious.

After some further conversation, I said (hat
men having power, too oflen misapplied it;
that though we made slaves of the n^roes,
and the Turks made slaves of the Christians,
I believed that liberty was the natural right
of all men equally; which he did not deny;
but said the lives of the negroes were so
wretched in their own country, that many of
them lived better here than there. I only



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LIFE OF JOHN WOOLMAN.



845



said there is great odds in regard to us, on
what principle we act ; and so the conversa-
tion on that subject ended. I may here add,
that another person, some time aflerward,
mentioned the wretchedness of the negroes,
occasioned by their intestine wars, as an ar-
gument in favour of our fetching them away
for slaves ; to which I then replied, if com
passsion on the Africans, in regard to their
domestic troubles, were the real motives of
our purchasing them, that spirit of tenderness
being attended to, would incite us to use them
kindly, that as strangers brought out of afflic-
tion, their lives might be happy among us;
and as they are human creatures, whose souls
are as precious as ours, and who may receive
the same help and comfort from the holy
Scriptures as we do, we could not omit suit-
able endeavours to instruct them therein. But
while we manifest by our conduct, that our
views in purchasing them are to advance our-
selves ; and while our buying captives taken
in war, animates those parties to push on that
war, and increase desolation aniongst them ;
to say they live unhappily in Africa, is far
from being an argument in our favour. I
further said, the present circumstances of
these provinces to me appear difficult ; the
slaves look like a burthensome stone to such
who burthen themselves with them, and that
if the white people retain a resolution to
prefer their outward prospects of gain to all
other considerations, and do not act conscien-
tiously toward them as fellow-creatures, I be-
liete that burthen will grow heavier and hea-
vier, until times change in a way disagreeable
to us. At this the person appeared very
serious, and owned, that in considering their
condition and the manner of their treatment
in these provinces, he had sometimes thought
it might be just in the Almighty so to order it.

Having travelled through Maryland, we
came amongst Friends at Cedar creek in
Virginia, on the 12th day of the fifth month ;
and the next day rode, in company with seve-
ral Friends, a day's journey to Camp creek.
As I was riding along in the morning, my
mind was deeply affected in a sense I had of
the want of Divine aid to support me in the
various difficulties which attended me; and
in an uncommon distress of mind, I cried in
secret to the Most High, O Lord! be merciful,
I beseech thee, to thy poor afflicted creature.
After some time, I felt inward relief; and soon
after, a Friend in company began to talk in
support of the slave-trade, and said the ne-
groes were understood to be the ofi^pring of
Cain, their blackness being the mark God set
upon him after he murdered Abel, his brother,
and that it wds the design of Providence they
should be slaves, as a condition proper to the

Vol. IV.— No. 9.



race of so wicked a man as Cain was. Then
another spake in support of what had been
said. To all which, I replied in substance
as follows: Noah and his family were all
who survived the flood, according to Scrip*
ture ; and as Noah was of Seth's race, the
family of Cain was wholly destroyed. One
of them said, that after the flood Ham went
to the land of Nod, and took a wife; that
Nod was a land far distant, inhabited by
Cain's race, and that the flood did not reach
it ; and as Ham was sentenced to be a ser-
vant of servants to his brethren, these two
families being thus joined, were undoubtedly
fit only for slaves. I replied, the flood was a
judgment upon the world for their abomina-
tions; and it was granted that Cain's stock
was the most wicked, and therefore unrea-
sonable to suppose they were spared : as to
Ham's going to the land of Nod for a wife,
no time being fixed, Nod might be inhabited
by some of Noah's family, l^fore Ham mar-
ried a second time ; moreover the text saithi
''That all flesh died that moved upon the
earth." I further reminded them, how the
prophets repeatedly declare, *Mhat the son
shall not sufler for the iniquity of the father;
but every one be answerable for his own
sins." I was troubled to perceive the dark-
ness of their imaginations; and in some
pressure of spirit said, the love of ease and
gain are the motives in general of keeping
slaves, and men are wont to take hold of weak
arguments to support a cause which is unrea-
sonable. I have no interest on either 8ide»
save only the interest which I desire to have
in the Truth ; and as I believe liberty is their
right, and see they are not only deprived of it,
but treated in other respects with inhumanity
in many places, I believe He, who is a refuge
for the oppressed, will in his own time, plead
their cause; and happy will it be for such,
who walk in uprightness before him: thus
our conversation ended.

On the 14th day of the fifth month I was
at Camp creek Monthly Meeting, and then
rode to the mountains up James river, and
had a meeting at a Friend's house ; in both
which I felt sorrow of heart, and my tears
were poured out before the Lord, who was
pleased to aflbrd a degree of strength by
which way was opened to dear my mind
amongst Friends in those places. From
thence I went to Fork creek, and so to Cedar
creek again; at which place I now had a
meeting. Here I found a tender seed; and
as I was preserved in the ministry to keep
low with the Truth, the same Truth in their
hearts answered it, so that it was a time of
mutual refreshment from the presence of the
Lord. I lodged at James Stanley's, father of
44



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846



LIFE OF JOHN WOOLMAN.



William Stanley, one of the young men
who suffered imprisonment at Winchester
last summer, on account of their testimony
against fighting ; and I had some satisfactory
conversation with him concerning it. Hence
I went to the Swamp and Wainoak meet-
ings; and then crossed James river, and lodged
near Burleigh. From the time of my enter-
ing Maryland I have been much under sor-
row, which of late so increased upon me,
that my mind was almost overwhelmed ; and
I may say with the psalmist, " in my distress
I called upon the Lord, and cried to my God ;"
who, in infinite goodness, looked upon my
afHiction, and in my private retirement sent
the Comforter for my relief; for which I hum-
bly bless his holy name.

The sense I had of the state of the churches,
brought a weight of distress upon me: the
gold to me appeared dim, and the fine gold
changed ; and though this is the case too
generally, yet the sense of it in these parts
hath, in a particular manner, borne heavily
upon me. It appeared to me, that through
the prevailing of the spirit of this world, the
minds of many were brought to inward deso-
lation ; and instead of the spirit of meekness,
gentleness and heavenly wisdom, which are
the necessary companions of the true sheep
of Christ, a spirit of fierceness and the love
of dominion, too generally prevailed. From
small beginnings in ei'ror, great buildings by
degrees, are raised, and from one age to an-
other are more and more strengthened by the
general concurrence of the people. As men
obtain reputation by their profession of the
Truth, their virtues are mentioned as argu-
ments in favour of general error ; and those
of less note, to justify themselves, say, such
and such good men did the like. By what
other steps could the people of Judah rise to
such a height in wickedness, as to give just
ground for the prophet Isaiah to declare in
the name of the Lord, *' that none calleth for
justice, nor any pleadeth for truth :" or for the
Almighty to call upon the great city of Jeru-
salem, just before the Babylonish captivity,
" If ye can find a man, if there be any who
ezecuteth judgment, that seek^th the Truth,
and I will pardon it." The prospect of a
road lying open to the same degeneracy, in
some parts of this newly settled land of
America, in respect to our conduct toward
the negroes, hath deeply bowed my mind in
this journey; and though to relate briefly how
these people are treated is no agreeable work,
yet after oflen reading over the notes I made
as I travdlled, I find my mind engaged to
preserve them. Many of the white people in
those provinces take little or no care of negro
marriages; and when negroes marry afler



their own way, some make so little account
of those marriages, that with views of out-
ward interest, they oflen part men from their
wives by selling them far asunder ; which is
common when estates are sold by executors
at vendue. Many whose labour is heavy,
being followed at their business in the field,
by a man with a whip, hired for that purpose,
have in common little else allowed but one
peck of Indian corn and some salt for one
week, with a few potatoes ; the potatoes they
commonly raise by their labour on the first-
day of the week.

The correction ensuing on their disobedi-
ence to overseers, or sloth fulness in business,
is oflen very severe, and sometimes desperate.

Men and women have many times scarcely
clothes enough to hide their nakedness, and
boys and girls, ten and twelve years old, are
oflen quite naked amongst their roaster's chil-
dren. Some of our Society, and some of the
Society called New Lights, use some endea-
vours to instruct those they have in reading;
but in common this is not only neglected, but
disapproved. These are the people by whose
labour the other inhabitants are in a great
measure supported, and many of them in the
luxuries of life: these are the people who
have made no agreement to serve us, and
who have not forfeited their liberty that we
know of: these are the souls for whom Christ
died, and for our conduct toward them, we
must answer before Him who is no respecter
of persons.

They who know the only true God, and
Jesus Christ whom he hath sent, and. are thus
acquainted with the merciful, benevolent. Gos-
pel spirit, will therein perceive that the indig-
nation of God is kindled against oppression
and cruelty ; and in beholding the great dis-
tress of so numerous a people, will find cause
for mourning.

From my lodgings I went to Burleigh
meeting, where I felt my mind drawn into a
quiet resigned state ; and afler long silence, I
felt an engagement to stand up ; and through
the powerful operation of Divine love, we
were favoured with an edifying meeting. The
next meeting we had was at Black Water;
and so to the Yearly Meeting at the Western
Branch. When its business b^an, some
queries were considered by some of their
members, to be now produced; and if ap-
proved, to be answered hereafler by th^'r re-
spective Monthly Meetings. They were the



Online LibraryWilliam EvansThe Friends' library: comprising journals, doctrinal treatieses, & other writings of members of the religious Society of Freinds → online text (page 75 of 104)