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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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offices in civil government*

The latter part of the summer 1763, there
came a man to Mount Holly, who had before
published by a printed advertisement, thai at
a certain public house he would show many
wonderful operations, which he therein enu-
merated.

This man at the time appointed, did, by
slight of hand, sundry things, which to those
gathered, appeared strange.

I heard of it next day, and understanding
that the show was to be continued, and the
people to meet about sun«<set, I felt an exer-
cise on that account : so I went to the public
house in the evening, and told the man of the
house that I had an inclination to spend a part
of the evening there ; with which he signified
that he was content. Then sitting down by
the door, I spoke to the people as they came
together, concerning this show; and more
coming and sitting down with us, the seats at
the door were mostly filled ; and I had con-
versation with them in the fear of the Lord,
and laboured to convince them that thus a»
sembling to see those tricks or slights of
hand, and bestowing their money to support
men who in that capacity were of no use in
the world, was contrary to the nature of the
Christian religion.

There was one of the company who, for a
time, endeavoured by arguments to show the
reasonableness of their proceedings ; but after
considering some texts of Scripture and calmly
debating the matter, he gave up the point.
Having spent about an hour amongst them,
and feeling my mind easy, I departed.



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LIFE OF JOHN WOOLMAN.



876



At our Yearly Meeting in Philadelphia, on
the 25th day of the ninth month, 1764, John
Smith of Marlborough, aged upwards of eighty
years, a faithful minister, though not eloquent,
stood up in our meeting of ministers and el-
ders, and appearing to be under a great exer-
cise of spirit, informed Friends in substance
as follows, to wit: **That he had been a mem-
ber of the Society upward of sixty years, and
well remembered that in those early times
Friends were a plain lowly minded people;
and that there was much tenderness and con-
trition in their meetings. — That at twenty
years from that time, the Society increasing
in wealth, and in some degree conforming to
the fashions of the world, true humility was
less apparent, and their meetings in general
not so lively and edifying — that at the end of
forty years, many of them were grown very
rich ; that wearing fine costly garments, and
using silver and other watches, became cus-
tomary with them, their sons and their daugh-
ters, and many of the Society made a spacious
appearance in the world ; which marks of out-
ward wealth and greatness, appeared on some
in our meetings of ministers and elders ; and
as these things became more prevalent, so the
powerful overshadowings of the Holy Ghost
were less manifest in the Society — thieit there
had been a continued increase of these ways
of life even until now; and that the weakness
which, hath overspread the Society, and the
barrenness manifest amongst us, is matter of
much sorrow.'^ He then mentioned the un-
certainty of his attending these meetings in
future, expecting his dissolution was now near f
and having tenderly expressed his concern for
us, signified that he had seen in the true light
that Uie Lord would bring back his people
from these things into which they were thus
degenerated, but that his faithful servants
must first go through great and heavy exer-
cises.

On the 29th day, the committee appointed
by the Yearly Meeting to visit the Quarterly
and Monthly Meetings, gave an account in
writing of their proceedings in that service ;
in which they signified, that in the course pf
it, they had been apprehensive that some per-
sons holding offices in government, inconsist-
ent with our principles ; and others who kept
slaves, remaining active members in our meet-
ings of discipline, had been one means of
weakness more and more prevailing in the
management thereof in some places. Afler
this report was read, an exercise revived on
my mind, which at times had attended me for
several years, and inward cries to the Lord
were raised in me, that the fear of man might
not prevent me from doing what he required
of me ; and standing up, I spoke in substance



as follows: ** I have felt a 'tenderness in my
mind toward persons, in two circumstances
mentioned in that report ; that is, toward such
active members who keep slaves, and such
who hold offices in civil government; and
have desired, that Friends in all their conduct
may be kindly afiectioned one toward another.
Many Friends who keep slaves, are under
some exercise on that account ; and at times,
think about trying them with freedom; but
find many things in their way. The way of
living, and annual expenses of some of them
are such, that it seems impracticable for them
to set their slaves free, without changing their
own way of life. It has been my lot to be
of\en abroad; and I have observed in some
places, at Quarterly and Yearly Meetings, and
at some houses where travelling Friends and
their horses are of\en entertained, that the
yearly expense of individuals therein is very
considerable. Friends in some places crowd-
ing much on persons in these circumstances
for entertainment, hath rested as a burthen on
my mind for some years past, and I now ex-
press it in the fear of the Lord, greatly de-
siring that Friends now present may duly
consider it."

In the fall of this year having hired a man
to work, I perceived in conversation that he
had been a soldier in the late war on this con-
tinent ; and in the evening giving a narrative
of his captivity amongst the Indians, he in-
formed me that he saw two of his fellow cap-
tives tortured to death in a very cruel manner.

This relation affected me with sadness,
under which I went to bed; and the next
morning, soon afler I awoke, a fresh and
living sense of Divine love spread over my
mind ; in which I had a renewed prospect of
the na^ture of that wisdom from above, which
leads to a rieht use of all gifls, both spiritual
and temporal, and gives contentment therein :
under a feeling thereof, I wrote as follows :

" Hath He, who gave me a being attended
with many wants unknown to brute creatures,
given me a capacity superior to theirs, and
shown me, that a moderate application to bu-
siness is proper to my present condition ; and
that this, attended with his blessing, may sup-
ply all outward wants, while they remain
within the bounds he hath fixed ; and no im-
aginary wants proceeding from an evil spirit,
have any place in me? Attend then, O my
soul ! to this pure wisdom, as thy sure con-
ducter through the manifold dangers in this
world !

*' Doth pride lead to vanity ? Doth vanity
form imaginary wants? Do these wants
prompt men to exert their power in requiring
that of others, from which they would rather
be excused; were the same required of them?



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LIFE OF JOHN WOOLMAN.



"Do these proceedings beget hard thoughts?
Do hard thoughts, when ripe, become malice ?
Does malice, when ripe, become revengeful
and in the end inflict terrible pains on their
fellow-creatures, and spread desolations in the
world 1

"Do mankind, walking in uprightness, de
light in each other's happiness ? And do these
creatures, capable of this attainment, by giv-
ing way to an evil spirit, employ their wit
and strength to afflict and destroy one an*
other?

" Remember then, O my soul I the quietude
of those in whom Christ governs, and in all
thy proceedings feel after it 1

" Doth he condescend to bless thee with his
presence ? To move and influence to action 7
To dwell in thee and walk in thee? Remem-
ber then thy station, as a being sacred to God;
accept of the strength freely ofllered thee; and
take heed that no weakness, in conforming to
expensive, unwise and hard hearted customs,
gendering to discord and strife, be given way
to. Doth he claim my body as his temple ?
And graciously grant that I may be sacred to
him. Oh ! that I may prize this favour ; and
that my whole life may be conformable to this
character I

" Remember, O my soul I that the prince
of peace is thy Lord : that he communicates
his unmixed wisdom to his family; that they
living in perfect simplicity, may give no just
cause of offence to any creature, but may
walk as he walked !"

Having felt an openness in my heart toward
visiting families in our own meeting, and es-
pecially in the town of Mount Holly, the place
of my abode, I mentioned it in our Monthly
Meeting the fore part of the winter 1764;
which being agreed to, and several Friends of
our meeting being united in the exercise, we
proceeded therein ; and through Divine favour
were helped in the work, so that it appeared
to me as a fresh reviving of godly care
amongst Friends. In the latter part of the
same winter, I joined my friend William
Jones, in a visit to Friends' families in Mans-
field ; in which labour I had cause to admire
the goodness of the Lord toward us.

Having felt my mind drawn to visit Friends
along the sea coast from Cape May to near
Squan ; and also to visit some people in those
parts, amongst whom there is no settled wor-
ship ; I joined with my beloved friend Benja-
min Jones, in a visit there, having Friends'
unity therein. We set off* the 24th day of the
tenth month, 1765, and had a prosperous and
very satisfactory journey; feeling at times,
through the goodness of the heavenly Shep-
herd, the Gospel to flow freely toward a poor
people scattered in those places. Soon after I



our return, I joined my friends John Sleeper
and Elizabeth Smith, in visiting Friends' fami-
lies at Burlington, there being at this time
about fifty families of our Society in that
city ; and we had cause humbly to adore our
heavenly Father, who baptized us into a feel-
ing of the state of the people, and strength-
ened us to labour in trae Gospel love amongst
them.

An exercise having at times for several
years attended me, in regard to paying a re-
ligious visit to Friends on the Eastern Shore
of Maryland ; such was the nature of it» that
I believed the Lord moved me to travel on
foot amongst them, that by so doing I might
have a more lively feeling of the condition of
the oppressed slaves, set an example of lowli-
ness before the eyes of their masters, and be
more out of the way of temptation to unpro-
fitable converse.

The time drawing near in which I believed
it my duty to lay my concern before our
Monthly Meeting, 1 perceived in conversation
with my beloved friend John Sleeper, that he
was under a concern to travel the same way,
and also to go on foot in the form of a ser-
vant amongst them, as he expressed it. This
he told me before he knew aught of my exer-
cise.

We being thus drawn the same way, laid
our exercise and the nature of it before
Friends; and obtaining certificates, we set
off the 6th day of the fifth month, 1766 ; and
were at meetings with Friends at Wilming-
ton, Duck creek, Little creek and Motherkill ;
my heart being at times tendered under the
Divine influence, and enlarged in love toward
the people amongst whom we travelled.

From Motherkill, we crossed the country
about thirty-five miles to Friends at Tucka-
hoe in Maryland, and had a meeting there
and at Marshy creek.

At these our three last meetings, were a
considerable number of people, followers of
one Joseph Nichols, a preacher ; who, I un*
derstand, is not in outward fellowship with
any religious Society of people, but professes
nearly the same principles as our Society
doth, and often travels up and down appoint-
ing meetings, to which many people come. I
heard Friends speaking of some of their
neighbours, who had b^n irreligious people,
that were now his followers, and were be*
come sober well behaved men and women.

Some irregularities I hear have been
amongst the people at several of his meet*
ings; but from the whole of what I have
perceived, I believe the man and some of his
followers, are honestly disposed, but that skil-
ful fathers are wanting among them: from
hence we went to Cfaoptank and Third Ha-



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LIFE OF JOHN WOOLMAN.



877



Ten ; and thence to Queen Ann's. The wea-
ther for some days past having been hot and
dry, and in order to attend meetings pursuant
to appointment, we having travelled pretty
steadily, and had hard lalK)ur in meetings, I
grew weakly ; at which I was for a time dis-
couraged. But looking over our journey, and
thinking how the Lord had supported our
minds and bodies, so that we got forward
much faster than I expected before we came
out, I saw that I had been in danger of too
strongly desiring to get soon through the jour-
ney, and that this bodily weakness was a
kindness to me; and then in contrition of spi-
rit, I became very thankful to my gracious
Father, for this manifestation of his love; and
in humble submission to his will, ray trust
was renewed in him.

On this part of our journey I had many
thoughts on the difierent circumstances of
Friends who inhabit Pennsylvania and Jer-
sey, from those who dwell in Maryland, Vir-
ginia and Carolina. Pennsylvania and New
Jersey were settled by Friends who were
convinced of our principles in England in
times of suffering, and coming over bought
lands of the natives, and applied themselves
to husbandry in a peaceable way; and many
of their children were taught to labour for
their living.

Few Friends, I believe, came from England
to settle in any of these Southern provinces ;
but by the faithful labours of travelling Friends
in early times, there were considerable con-
Tincements amongst the inhabitants of these
parts. Here I remembered my reading of the
warlike disposition of many of the first set-
tlers in these provinces, and of their numerous
engagements with the natives, in which much
blood was shed, even in the infancy of those
colonies. The people inhabiting these places,
being grounded in customs contrary to the
pure Truth, when some of them were afiected
with the powerful preaching of the Word of
Life, and joined in fellowship with our So-
ciety, they had a great work to go through.
It is observable in the History of the Reforma-
tion from Popery, that it had a gradual pro-
gress from age to age. The uprightness of
the first reformers, in attending to the light
and understanding given them, opened the
way for sincere hearted people to proceed iur-
ther afterward ; and thus each one truly fear-
ing God, and labouring in those works of
righteousness appointed for them in their day,
findeth acceptance with him. Through the
darkness of the times and the corruption of
manners and customs, some upright men may
have had little more for their day's work than
to attend to the righteous principle in their
niinds» as it related to their own conduct in

Vol. IV.— No. 10.



life, without pointing out to others the whole
extent of that, which the same principle would
lead succeeding ages into. Thus for instance ;
amongst an imperious warlike people, sup-
ported by oppressed slaves, some of these
masters I suppose, are awakened to feel and
see their error; and through sincere repent-
ance, cease from oppression and become like
fathers to their servants; showing by their
example,^ a pattern of humility in living and
moderation in governinj^, for the instruction
and admonition of their oppressing neigh-
bours; those without carrying the reforma-
tion further, I believe have found acceptance
with the Lord. Such was the beginning; and
those who succeeded them, and have faithfully
attended to the nature and spirit of the re-
formation, have seen the necessity of proceed-
ing further; and not only to instruct others
by their example in governing well, but also
to use means to prevent their successors from
having so much power to oppress others.

Here I was renewedly confirmed in my
mind, that the Lord, whose tender mercies
are over all his works, and whose ear is open
to the cries and groans of the oppressed, is
graciously moving on the hearts of people, to
draw them off from the desire of wealth, and
bring them into such an humble, lowly way
of living, that they may see their way clearly,
to repair to the standard of true righteous-
ness ; and not only break the yoke ofoppres-
sion, but know him to be their strength and
support in a time of outward afSiction.

Passing on we crossed Chester river, and
had a meeting there, and at Cecil and Sassa-
fras. Through my bodily weakness, joined
with a heavy exercise of mind, it was to me
an humbling dispensation, and I had a very
lively feeling of the state of the oppressed ;
yet I often thought that what I sufiered was
little, compared with the su&rings of the
blessed Jesus, end many of his faithful follow-
ers ; and may say with thankfulness, I was
made content.

From Sassafras we went pretty directly
home, where we found our families well ; and
for several weeks after our return, I had often
to look over our journey : and though to me
it appeared as a small service, and that some
faithful messengers will yet have more bitter
cups to drink for Christ's sake in those South-
ern provinces, than we had ; yet I found peace
in that I had been helped to walk in sincerity,
according to the understanding and strength
given me.

On the 13th day of the eleventh month,
1766, with the unity of Friends at our Month-
ly Meeting, in company with my beloved friend
Benjamin Jones, I set out on a visit to Friends
in the upper part of this province, having for
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LIFE OF JOHN WOOLMAN.



a considerable time had drawings of love in
my heart that way: we travelled as far as
Hardwick; and I had inward peace in my
labours of love amongst them.

Through the humbling dispensations of Di-
vine Providence, my mind hath been brought
into a further feeling of the difBcuUtes of
Friends and their servants south-westward:
and being oflen engaged in spirit on their ac-
count, I believed it my duty to walk into some
parts of the Western shore of Maryland, on a
religious visit. Having obtained a certificate
from Friends of our Monthly Meeting, I took
my leave of my family under the heart-ten-
dering operation of Truth ; and on the 20th
day of the fourth month, 1767, 1 rode to the
ferry opposite to Philadelphia, and from thence
walked to William Home's, at Darby, that
evening ; and next day pursued my journey
alone, and reached Concord week-day meet-
ing.

Discouragements and a weight of distress,
had at times attended me in this lonesome
walk ; through which afflictions I was merci-
fully preserved : and now sitting down with
Friends, my mind was turned toward the
Lord, to wait for his holy leadings; who, in
infinite love, was pleased to soflen my heart
into humble contrition, and renewedly strength-
en me to go forward; that to me it was a time
of heavenly refreshment in a silent meeting.

The next day I came to New Garden week-
day meeting, in which 1 sat with bowedness
of spirit ; and being baptized into a feeling of
the state of some present, the Lord gave us a
heart tendering season; to his name be the
praise.

I passed on, and was at Nottingham Monthly
Meeting; and at a meeting at Little Britain on
first-day: and in theaflernoon several Friends
came to the house where I lodged, and we had
a little afternoon meeting; and through the
humbling power of Truth, I had to admire
the loving-kindness of the Lord manifested
to us.

On the 26th day I crossed the Susquehanna;
and coming anK>ngst people living in outward
ease and greatness, chiefly on the labour of
slaves, my heart was much affected ; and in aw-
ful retiredness, my mind was gathered inward
to the Lord, being humbly engaged that in true
resignation I might receive instruction from
him, respecting my duty amongst this people.

Though travelling on foot was wearisome
to my body ; yet it was agreeable to the state
of my mind.

I went gently on, being weakly; and was
covered with sorrow and heaviness, on ac-
count of the spreading prevailing spirit of this
world, introducing customs grievous and op-
pressive on one hand, and cherishing pride



and wantonness on the other. In this lonely
walk and state of abasement and humiliation,
the state of the church in these parts was
opened before me; and I may truly say with
the prophet, " I was bowed down at the hear-
ing of it; I was dismayed at the seeing of it.''
Under this exercise, I attended the Quarterly
Meeting at Gunpowder ; and in bowedness of
spirit, I had to open with much plainness,
what I felt respecting Friends living in fulness,
on the labours of the poor oppressed negroes;
and that promise of the Most High was now
revived ; ** I will gather all nations and tongues;
and they shall come and see my glory." Here
the sufierings of Christ and his tasting death
for every man, and the travels, sufierings and
martyrdom of the apostles and primitive Chris-
tians, in labouring for the conversion of the
Gentiles, was livingly revived in me ; and ac-
cording to the measure of strength afforded, I
laboured in some tenderness of spirit, being
deeply affected amongst them. The differ-
ence between the present treatment which
these Gentiles, the negroes, receive at our
hands, and the labours of the primitive Chris-
tians for the conversion of the Gentiles, was
pressed home, and the power of Truth came
over us ; under a feeling of which, my mind
was united to a tender-hearted people in those
parts ; and the meeting concluded in a sense
of God's goodness toward his humble depend-
ent children.

The next day was a general meeting for
worship, much crowded: in which I was deep-
ly engaged in inward cries to the Lord for
help, that I might stand wholly resigned, and
move only as he might be pleased to lead me:
and I was mercifully helped to labour honestly
and fervently amongst them, in which I found
inward peace; and the sincere were com-
forted.

From hence I turned toward Pipe creek,
and passed on to the Red Lands ; and bad
several meetings amongst Friends in those
parts. My heart was oflen tenderly aflfected,
under a sense of the Lord's goodneas, in
sanctifying my troubles and exercises, turn-
ing them to my comfort, and I believe, to the
benefit of many others ; for I may say with
thankfulness, that this visit appeared like a
fresh tendering visitation in most places.

I passed on to the western Quarterly Meet-
ing in Pennsylvania ; during the several days
of this meeting, I was mercifully preserved
in an inward feeling after the mind of Truth,
and my public labours tended to my humilia-
tion, with which I was content. Afler the
Quarterly Meeting of worship ended, I ielt
drawings to go to the women's meeting of
business, which was very full ; and here the
humility of Jesus Christ, as a pattern for ua



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LIFE OF JOHN WOOLMAN.



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to walk by, was livingly opened before me ;
and in treating on it my heart was enlarged,
and it was a baptizing time. From hence I
went on, and was at meetings at Concord,
Middletown, Providence and Haddon6eId, and
so home; where I found my family well. A
sense of the Lord's merciful preservation in
this my journey, excites reverent thankfulness
to him.

On the 2nd day of the ninth month, 1767,
with the unity of Friends, I set off on a visit
to Friends in the upper part of Berks and
Philadelphia counties ; was at eleven meetings
in about two weeks ; and have renewed cause
to bow in reverence before the Lord, who, by
the powerftil extendings of his humbling good-
ness, opened my way amongst Friends, and
made the meetings, I trust, profitable to us.
The following winter I joined in a visit to
Friends' families in some part of our meeting;
in which exercise, the pure influence of Divine
love made our visits reviving.

On the 5th day of the fifth month, 1768, 1
left home under the humbling hand of the
Lord, having obtained a certificate, in order
to visit some meetings in Maryland ; and to
proceed without a horse looked clearest to me.
I was at the Quarterly Meetings at Philadel-
phia and Concord ; and then went on to Ches-
ter river ; and crossing the bay with Friends,
was at the Yearly Meeting at West river:
thence back to Chester river; and taking a
lew meetings in my way, proceeded home.
It was a journey of much inward waiting;
and as my eye was to the Lord, way was se-
veral times opened to my humbling admira-
tion, when things appeared very difficult.

In my return I felt a relief of mind very
comfortable to me; having through Divine



Online LibraryWilliam EvansThe Friends' library: comprising journals, doctrinal treatieses, & other writings of members of the religious Society of Freinds → online text (page 82 of 104)