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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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Pennsylvania queries, which had been exam-
ined by a committee of Virginia Yearly Meet-
ing appointed last year, who made some al-
terations in them ; one of which alterations
was made in favour of a custom which troo-
bled me. The query was, "Are there any



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LIPE OF JOHN WOOLMAN.



847



concerned in the importation of negroes, or
buying them after imported?" which they
altered thus: '^Are there any concerned in
the importation of negroes, or buying them
to trade in?" As one query admitted with
unanimity was, *' Are any concerned in buy-
ing or vending goods unlawfully imported, or
prize goods?" I found my mind engaged to
say, Sat as we professed the Truth, and
were there assembled to support the testimony
of it, it was necessary for us to dwell deep,
and act in that wisdom which is pure, or
otherwise we could not prosper. I then men-
tioned the alteration ; and referring to the last
mentioned query, added, as purchasing any
merchandize taken by the sword, was always
allowed to be inconsistent with our principles ;
negroes being captives of war, or taken by
stealth, those circumstances make it incon-
sistent with our testimony to buy them ; and
their being our fellow creatures, who are sold
as slaves, adds greatly to the iniquity. Friends
appeared attentive to what was said; some
expressed a care and concern about their ne-
groes ; none made any objection, by way of
reply to what I said ; but the query was ad-
mitted as they had altered it. As some of
their members have heretofore traded in ne-
groes, as in other merchandize, this query,
being admitted, will be one step further than
they have hitherto gone. I did not see it my
duty to press for an alteration ; but felt easy
to leave it all to Him, who alone is able to
turn the hearts of the mighty, and to make
way for the spreading of Truth on the earth,
by means agreeable to his infinite wisdom.
But in regard to those they already had, I
felt my mind engaged to labour with them ;
and said, that, as we believe the Scriptures
were riven forth by holy men as they were
moved by the Holy Ghost, and many of us
know by ezperienoe that they are often help-
ful and comfortable, and believe ourselves
bound in duty to teach our children to read
them ; I believe that if we were divested of
all selfish views, the same good Spirit that
gave them forth, would engage us to teach
the negroes to read, that they might have the
benefit of them : there were some amongst
them who, at this time, manifested a concern
in regard to taking more care in the educa-
tion of their negroes.

On the 29th day of the fifth month, at the
house where I lodged, was a meeting of min-
isters and elders, at the ninth hour in the
morning ; at which time I found an engage-
ment to speak freely and plainly to them con-
cerning their slaves; mentioning how they,
as the first rank in the Society, whose con-
duct in that case was much noticed by others,
were under the stronger obligations to look



carefully to themselves: expressing how need*
ful it was for them, in that situation, to be
thoroughly divested of all selfish views ; that
living in the pure Truth, and acting conscien-
tiously toward those people in their education
and otherwise, they might be instrumental in
helping ferward a work so exceedingly ne-
cessary, and so much neglected amongst
them. At the twelfth hour the meeting of
worship began, which was solid.

On the 30th day, about the tenth hour,
Friends met to finish their business, and then
the meeting fer worship ensued, which to me
was a laborious time ; but through the good-
ness of the LfOrd, Truth, I believe, gained
some ground; and it was a strengthening
opportunity to the honest-hearted.

About this time I wrote an epistle to Friends
in the back settlements of North Carolina, as
follows :

To Friefids at their Monthly Meeting at New
Oarden and Cane creeks in North Carolina,

Dear Friends,

It having pleased the Lord to draw me
forth on a visit to some parts of Virginia and
Carolina, you have often been in my mind ;
and though my way is not clear to come in
person to visit you, yet I feel it in my heart
to communicate a few things, as they arise in
the love of Truth. First, my dear friends,
dwell in humility; and take heed that tio
views of outward gain get too deep hold of
you, that so your eyes being single to the
Lord, you may be preserved in the way of
safety. Where people let loose their minds
after the love of outward things, and are
more engaged in pursuing the profits and
seeking the friendships of this world, than to
be inwardly acquainted with the way of true
peace, such walk in a vain shadow, while
the true comfort of life is wanting ; their ex-
amples are often hurtful to others ; and their
treasures, thus collected, do many times prove
dangerous snares to their children. •

But where people are sincerely devoted to
follow Christ, and dwell under the influence
of his holy Spirit, their stability and firmness,
through a Divine blessing, is at times like
dew on the tender plants around about them,
and the weightiness of their spirits secretly
works on the minds of others; and in this
condition, through the spreading influence of
Divine love, they feel a care over the flock ;
and way is opened for maintaining good or-
der in the Society. And though we meet
with opposition from another spirit, yet, as
there is a dwelling in meekness, feeling our
spirits subject, and moving only in the gentle
peaceable wisdom, the inward reward of quiet-
ness, will be greater than all our difilculties.



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848



LIFfi OF JOHN WOOLMAN.



Where the pure life is kept to, and meeting
of discipline are held in the authority of it,
we find by experience that they are comfort-
able, and tend to the heahh of the body.

While I write, the youth come fresh in my
way. — Dear young people, choose God for
your portion; love his Truth, and be not
ashamed of it; choose for your company
such who serve him in uprightness ; and
shun, as most dangerous, the conversation of
those whose lives are of an ill savour; for
by frequenting such company, some hopeful
young people have come to great loss, and
been drawn from less evils to greater to their
utter ruin. In the bloom of youth no orna
ment is so lovely as that of virtue, nor any
enjoyments equal to those which we partake
of, in fully resigning ourselves to the Divine
will. These enjoyments add sweetness to all
other comforts, and give true satisfaction in
company and conversation, where people are
mutually acquainted with it; and as your
minds are thus seasoned with the Truth, you
will find strength to abide steadfast to the tes-
timony of it, and be prepared for services in
the church.

And now, dear friends and brethren, as
you are improving a wilderness, and may be
numbered amongst the first planters in one
part of a province, I beseech you, in the love
of Jesus Christ, wisely to consider the force
of your examples, and think how much your
successors may be thereby afiected. It is a
help in a country, yea, a great favour and a
blessing, when customs first settled, are agree-
able to sound wisdom; so when they are
otherwise, the eflect of them is grievous ; and
children feel themselves encompassed with
difficulties prepared for them by their prede-
cessors.

As moderate care and exercise, under the
direction of true wisdom, is useful both to
mind and body; so by this means in general,
the real wants of life are easily supplied ; our
graoious Father having so proportioned one
to the other, that, keeping in the true medium,
we may pass on quietly. Where slaves are
purchased to do our labour, numerous diffi-
culties attend. To rational creatures bond-
age is uneasy, and frequently occasions sour-
ness and discontent in them; which affects
the family, and such who claim the mastery
over them: and thus people and their chil-
dren are many times encompassed with vex-
ations, which arise from their applying to
wrong methods to get a living.

I have been informed that there are a large
number of Friends in your parts, who have
no slaves ; and in tender and most affection-
ate love, I beseech you to keep clear from
purchasing any. Look, my dear friends, to



Divine Providence ; and follow in simplicity
that exercise of body, that plainness and fru-
gality, which true wisdom leads to ; so may
you be preserved from those dangers which
attend such who are aiming at outward ease
and greatness.

Treasures, though small, attained on a
true principle of virtue, are sweet in the pos-
session; and while we walk in the light of
the Lord, there is true comfort and satisfac-
tion. Here, neither the murmurs of an op*
pressed people, nor the throbbing of an un-
easy conscience, nor anxious thoughts about
the event of things, hinder the enjoyment
of life.

When we look toward the end of life, and
think on the division of our substance among
our successors ; if we know that it was col-
lected in the fear of the Lord, in honesty » in
equity, and in uprightness of heart before
him, we may consider it as his gift to us;
and with a single eye to his blessing, bestow
it on those we leave behind us. Such is the
happiness of the plain way of true virtue.
''The work of righteousness shall be peace;
and the effect of righteousness, quietness and
assurance for ever."

Dwell here, my dear friends ; and then in
remote and solitary deserts, you may &id
true peace and satisfaction. If the Lord be
our God, in truth and reality, there is safety
for us ; for he is a strong hold in the day of
trouble, and knoweth them that trust in him.

Isle of Wight county, in Vinpnia, 89Ui of
the Fifth montfa, im

From the Yearly Meeting in Virginia, I
went to Carolina ; and on tSs Ist day of the
sixth month, was at Wells Monthly Meeting,
where the spring of the Gospel ministry was
opened, and the love of Jesus Christ experi-
enced amongst us : to his name be the praise.

Here my brother joined with some Friends
from New Garden, who were going home-
ward ; and I went next to Simons creek
Monthly Meeting, where I was silent during
the meeting for worship. When business
came on, my mind was exercised concerning
the poor slaves ; but I did not feel my way
clear to speak : in this condition I was bowed
in spirit before the Lord ; and with tears and
inward supplication besought him, so to open
my understanding, that I might know his
will concerning me ; and at length, my mind
was settled in silence. Near the end of their
business, a member of the meeting expressed
a concern, that had some time lain upon him,
on account of Friends so much neglecting
their duty in the education of their slaves,
and proposed having meetings sometimes ap-
pointed for them on a week-day, to be ooly



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LIFE OF JOHN WOOLMAN.



849



atteoded by some Friends to be named in
their Monthly Meetings. Many present ap-
peared to unite with the proposal: one said
be had often wondered that they, being our
fellow creatures and capable of religious un-
derstanding, had been so exceedingly neglect-
ed : another expressed the like concern, and
appeared zealous that Friends in future, might
more closely consider it : at length a minute
was made; and the further consideration of
it referred to their next Monthly Meeting.
The Friend who made this proposal has ne-
groes : he told me that he was at New Gar-
den ; about two hundred and fifty miles from
home, and came back alone ; and that in this
solitary journey, this exercise in regard to the
education of their negroes, was, from time to
time, renewed in his mind. A Friend of some
note in Virginia, who has slaves, told me, that
he being far from home on a lonesome jour-
ney, had many serious thoughts about them ;
and that his mind was so impressed therewith,
that he believed he saw a time coming, when
Divine Providence would alter the circum-
stance of these people, respecting their condi-
tion as slaves.

From hence I went to Newbegun creek,
and sat a considerable time in much weak-
ness ; then I felt Truth open the way to speak
a little in much plainness and simplicity, till,
at length, through the increase of Divine love
amongst ns, we had a seasoning opportunity.
From thence I went to the head of Little
river, where was, on a first-day, a crowded
meeting ; and I believe, through Divine good-
ness, it was made profitable to some. Thence
to the Old Neck; where I was led into a
careful searching out the secret workings of
the mystery of iniquity, which, under a cover
of religion, exalu itself against that pure spi-
rit, which leads in the way of meekness and
self-denial. From thence to Piney-woods;
which was the last meeting I was at in Caro-
lina, and was large; and my heart being
deeply engaged, I was drawn forth in fervent
labour amongst them.

When I was at Newbegun creek, a Friend
was there who laboured for his living, having
no negroes, and had been a minister many
years. He came to me the next day, and as
we rode together, signified that he wanted to
talk with me concerning a difficulty he had
been under, and related it nearly as follows: to
wit, That as monies had been raised by a tax
of late years to carry on war, he had a scru-
ple in his mind in regard to paying it, and
chose rather to sufifer distraint of his goods
than pay it ; and as he was the only person
who refused it in those parts, and knew not
that any one else was in the like circum-
stances, he signified that it had been a heavy



trial to him, and more so, for that some of his
brethren had been uneasy with his conduct in
that case. He added, that from a sympathy
he felt with me yesterday in meeting, he found
freedom thus to open the matter, in the way
of querying concerning Friends in our parts.
I told him the state of Friends amongst us,
as well as I was able ; and also, that I had
for some time been under the like scruple. I
believed him to be one who was concerned to
walk uprightly before the Lord ; and esteemed
it my duty to preserve this note concerning
him ; his name was Samuel Newby.

From hence I went back into Virginia, and
had a meeting near James Cowpland's ; it was
a time of inward suffering; but through the
goodness of the Lord, I was made content :
then to another meeting ; where, through the
renewings of pure love, we had a very com-
fortable season.

Travelling up and down of late, I have
had renewed evidences, that to be faithful to
the Lord and contented with his will concenxo
ing me, is a most necessary and useful lesson
for me to be learning ; looking less at the ef*
fects of my labour, than at the pure motion
and reality of the concern, as it arises from
heavenly love. In the Lord Jehovah is ever-
lasting strength ; and as the mind, by humble
resignation, is united to him, and we utter
words from an inward knowledge that they
arise from the heavenly spring, though our
way may be difficult, and require close atten-
tion to keep in it ; and though the manner in
which we may be led may tend to our own
abasement ; yet, if we continue in patience
and meekness, heavenly peace is the reward
of our labours.

From thence I went to Curies meeting;
which, though small, was reviving to the
honest hearted. Thence to Black creek and
Caroline meetings; from whence, accompa-
nied by William Stanley, before mentioned,
we rode to Goose creek, being much through
the woods, and about one hundred miles. We
lodged the first night, at a public house ; the
second in the woods; and the next day we
reached a Friend's house, at Goose creek.
In the woods we lay under some disadvan-
tage, having no fire-works nor bells for our
horses ; but we stopped a little before night,
and let them feed on the wild grass which
was plenty; in the mean time cutting with
our knives a store against night, and then tied
them; and gathering some bushes under an
oak, we lay down ; but the mosquitoes being
plenty and the ground damp, I slept but little.
Lying in the wilderness, and looking at the
stars, I was led to contemplate the condition
of our first parents, when they were sent forth
from the garden ; but the Almighty, though



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350



LIFE OF JOHN WOOLMAN.



they had been disobedient, continued to be a
Father to them, and showed them what tended
to their felicity as intelligent creatures, and
was acceptable to him. To provide things
relative to our outward living, in the way of
true wisdom is good ; and the gifl of improv-
ing in things useful, is a good gifl, and comes
from the Father of lights. Many have had
this gifl; and from age to age, there have
been improvements of this kind made in the
world : but some not keeping to the pure gift,
have, in the creaturely cunning and self-ex-
altation, sought out many inventions ; which
inventions of men, distinct from that upright-
ness in which man was created, as the first
motion to them was evil, so the effects have
been and are evil. At this day, it is as ne-
cessary for us constantly to attend on the
heavenly gift, to be qualified to use rightly
the good things in this life amidst great im-
provements, as it was for our first parents,
when they were without any improvements,
without any friend or father but God only.

I was at a meeting at Goose creek; and
next at a Monthly Meeting at Fairfax ; where,
through the gracious dealing of the Almighty
with us, his power prevailed over many hearts.
Thence to Manoquacy and Pipe creek, in Ma-
ryland; at both which places I had cause
humbly to adore Him, who supported me
through many exercises, and by whose help
I was enabled to reach the true witness in the
hearts of others : there were some hopeful
young people in those parts. I had meetings
at John Event's in Monallen, and at Hunting-
don ; and was made humbly thankful to the
Lord, who opened my heart amongst the peo-
ple in these new settlements, so that it was a
time of encouragement to the honest minded.

At Monallen, a Friend gave me some ac-
count of a religious society, among the Dutch,
called Mennonists ; and amongst other things,
related a passage in substance as follows : —
One of the Mennonists having acquaintance
with a man of another society at a consider-
able distance, and being with his wagon on
business near the house of his said acquaint-
ance, and night coming on, he had thoughts
of putting up with him ; but passing by his
fields, and observing the distressed appear-
ance of his slaves, he kindled a fire in the
woods hard by, and lay there that night.
His acquaintance hearing where he lodged,
and afterward meeting the Mennonist, told
him of it ; adding, he should have been
heartily welcome at his house ; and from their
acquaintance in former time, he wondered at
his conduct in that case. The Mennonist re-
plied, ever since I lodged by thy field, I have
wanted an opportunity to speak with thee. I
intended lo come to thy house for entertain-



ment, but seeing thy slaves at their work,
and observing the manner of their dress, I
had no liking to come to partake with thee:
he then admonished him to use them with
more humanity, and added, as I lay by the'
fire that night, I thought that as I was a man
of substance, thou wouldst have received me
freely; but if I had been as poor as one of
thy slaves, and had no power to help myself,
I should have received from thy hand no
kinder usage than they.

From hence I was at three meetmgs in my
way, and so went home, under a humbling
sense of the gracious dealings of the Lord
with me, in preserving me through many
trials and affiictions in my journey. I was
out about two months, and travelled about
eleven hundred and fifty miles.



CHAPTER V.

Ckmsiderations on the payment of a tax laid for
carrying on the war against the Indiatu —
Some notes on Thomas d Kempis and John
Huss — Meetings of the committee of the Year-
ly Meeting at Philadelphia — The present cir-
cunutances of Friends in Pennsylvania and
New Jersey very different from those of our
predecessors — The drafting of the militia in
New Jersey to serve in the army; with some
observations on the state of the members of
our Society at that time — His visit to Fr ie n ds
in Pennsylvania^ accompanied by Benjamin
Jones — Proceedings at the Monthly^ Quarter^
ly and Yearly Meetings in Phiiadelphiay re-
specting those who keep sUmes.

A FBW years past, money being made cur-
rent in our province for carrying on wars,
and to be called in again by taxes Laid on the
inhabitants, my mind was often tSecXtA with
the thoughts of paying such taxes ; and I be-
lieve it right for me to preserve a memoran-
dum concerning it. I was told, that Friends
in England frequently paid taxes, when the
money was applied to such purposes. I had
conversation with several noted Friends on
the subject, who all favoured the payment of
such taxes ; some of whom I preferred before
myself, and this made me easier for a time ;
yet there was in the deeps of my mind, a
scruple which I never could get over ; and at
certain times, I was greatly distressed on that
account.

I all along believed that there were some
upright-hearted men, who paid such taxes;
but could not see that their example was a
sufiicient reason for me to do so, while I be-
lieved that the Spirit of Truth required of me,



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as ao individual, to sufier patiently the dis-
tress of goods, rather than pay actively.

I have been informed that Thomas k Kern-
pis lived and died in the profession of the
Roman Catholic religion : and in reading his
writings, I have believed him to be a man of
a true Christian spirit ; as fully so, as many
who died martyrs because they could not join
with some superstitions in that church.

All true Christians are of the same spirit,
but their gids are diverse; Jesus Christ ap-
pointing to each one their peculiar office,
agreeably to his infinite wisdom.

John Huss contended against the errors
crept into the church, in opposition to the
council of Constance; which the historian
reports to have consisted of some thousand
persons. He modestly vindicated the cause
which he believed was right ; and though his
language and conduct toward his judges ap-
pear to have been respectful, yet he never
could be moved from the principles settled in
his mind. To use his own words ; << This I
most humbly require and desire of you all,
even for his sake who is the God of us all,
that I be not compelled to the thing which my
conscience doth repugn or strive against."
And again, in his answer to the emperor:
" I refuse nothing, most noble emperor, what-
soever the council shall decree or determine
upon me, only this one thing I except, that I
do not offend God and my conscience." Fox's
Acts and Monuments, page 233. At length,
rather than act contrary to that which he be-
lieved the Lord required of him, he chose to
sufier death by fire. Thomas k Kempis,
without disputing against the articles then
generally agreed to, appears to have labour-
ed, by a pious example as well as by preach-
ing and writing, to promote virtue and the in-
ward spiritual religion: and I believe they
were both sincere- hearted followers of Christ.

True charity is an excellent virtue : and to
labour sincerely for their good, whose belief,
in all points, doth not agree with ours, is a
happy state. To refuse the active payment
of a tax which our Society generally paid,
was exceedingly disagreeable; but to do a
thing contrary to my conscience, appeared
yet more dreadful. When this exercise came
upon me, I knew of none under the like diffi-
culty; and in my distress, I besought the
Lord to enable me to give up all, that so I
might follow him wheresoever he was pleased
to lead me. Under this exercise I went to our
Yearly Meeting at Philadelphia, in the year
1755; at which a committee was appointed
of some from each quarter, to correspond
with the Meeting for Suflerings in London;
and another to visit our Monthly and Quar-
terly Meetings ; and after their appointment,



before the last adjournment of the meeting, it
was agreed that these two committees should
meet together in Friends' school-house in the
city, at a time then concluded on, to consider
some things in which the cause of Truth was
concerned. .These committees meeting to-
gether, had a weighty conference in the fear
of the Lord ; at which time, I perceived there
were many Friends under a scruple like that
before-mentioned.*

As scrupling to pay a tax on account of
the application, hath seldom been heard of



Online LibraryWilliam EvansThe Friends' library: comprising journals, doctrinal treatieses, & other writings of members of the religious Society of Freinds → online text (page 76 of 104)