Copyright
William Evans.

The Friends' library: comprising journals, doctrinal treatieses, & other writings of members of the religious Society of Freinds online

. (page 83 of 104)
Online LibraryWilliam EvansThe Friends' library: comprising journals, doctrinal treatieses, & other writings of members of the religious Society of Freinds → online text (page 83 of 104)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


help, laboured in much plainness, both with
Friends selected, and in the more public
meetings ; so that I trust the pure witness in
many minds was reached.

The 11th day of the sixth month, 1769.
Sundry cases have happened of late years,
within the limits of our Monthly Meeting, re-
specting the exercise of pure righteousness
toward the negroes; in which I have lived
under a labour of heart that equity might be
steadily kept to. On this account I have had
some close exercises amongst Friends; in
which I may thankfully say, I find peace: and
as my meditations have been on universal
love, my own conduct in time past, became
of late very grievous to me.

As persons setting negroes free in our pro-
vince, are bound by law to maintain them, in
case they have need of relief, some who scru-
pled keeping slaves for term of life, in the
time of my youth, were wont to detain their
young negroes in their service until thirty



years of age, without wages, on that account:
and with this custom I so far agreed, that
being engaged with another Friend in exe-
cuting the will of a deceased Friend, I once
sold a negro lad till he might attain the age
of thirty years, and applied the money to the
use of the estate.

With abasement of heart I may now say,
that sometimes as I have sat in a meeting,
with my heart exercised toward that awful
Being, who respecteth not persons nor co-
lours, and have looked upon this lad, I have
felt that all was not clear in my mind respect-
ing him : and as I have attended to this exer-
cise, and fervently sought the Lord, it hath
appeared to me that I should make some
restitution, but in what way I saw not till
lately. Being under a concern that I may be
resigned to go on a visit to some part of the
West Indies, and under close engagement of
spirit, seeking to the Lord for counsel herein,
my joining in the sale aforesaid, came heavily
upon me, and my mind for a time, was co-
vered with darkness and sorrow ; and under
this sore affliction, my heart was softened to
receive instruction. Here I saw, that as I
had been one of the two executors, who had
sold this lad nine years longer than is com-
mon for our own children to serve, so I should
now ofier a part of my substance to redeem
the last half of that nine years ; but as the
time was not yet come, I executed a bond,
binding me and my executors, to pay to the
man he was sold to, what to candid men
might appear equitable, for the last four years
and a half of his time, in case the said youth
should be living, and in a condition likely to
provide comfortably for himself.

The 9th day of the tenth month, 1769. My
heart hath often been deeply afflicted under a
feeling I have had, that the standard of pure
righteousness, is not liAed up to the people by
us as a Society, in that clearness which it
might have been, had we been as faithful to
the teachings of Christ as we ought to have
been. As my mind hath been inward to the
Lord, the purity of Christ's government hath
been opened on my understanding ; and under
this exercise, that of Friends being active in
civil society, in putting laws in force which
are not agreeable to the purity of righteous-
ness, hath for several years been an increas-
ing burthen upon me. I have felt in the open-
ings of universal love, that where a people
convinced of the truth of the inward teach-
ings of Christ, are active in putting laws in
execution, which are not consistent with pure
wisdom, it hath a necessary tendency to bring
dimness over their minds : and as my heart
hath been thus exercised, and a tender sym-
pathy m me toward my fellow members, I



Digitized by



Google



880



LIFE OP JOHN WOOLMAN.



have within a few months past, in several
meetings for discipline, expressed my concern
on this subject.



CHAPTER X.
His exercise far the good of the people in the
West Indies — communiceUes to Friends his re-
signation to visit some of these islands — The
state qf his mind^ atid the close considerations
he was led into while under this exercise —
preparations to embark, and considerations on
the trade to these islands ; released from the
concern he had been under — religious engage^
ments after his return home — His sickness, in
which he was brought to a very low state ; and
the prospects he then had.

The 12th day of the third month, 1770,
having for some years past, dieted myself on
account of a lump gathering on my nose, I
grew weak in body, and not of ability to tra-
vel by land as heretofore. I was at times fa-
voured to look with awfulness toward the Lord,
before whom are all my ways, who alone hath
the power of life and death ; and to feel thank-
fulness raised in me, for this his fatherly chas-
tisement, believing if I was truly humbled
under it, all would work for good. While I
was under this bodily weakness, my mind
being at times exercised for my fellow-crea-
tures in the West Indies, I grew jealous over
myself, lest the disagreeableness of the pros-
pect should hinder me from obediently attend-
ing thereto : for though I knew not that the
Lord required me to go there, yet I believed
that resignation was now called for in that
respect. Peeling a danger of not being wholly
devoted to him, I was frequently engaged to
watch unto prayer, that I might be preserved;
and upwards of a year having passed, as I
walked one day in a solitary wood, my mind
being covered with awfulness, cries were raised
in me to my merciful Father, that he would
graciously keep me in faithfulness; and it
then settled on my mind as a duty, to open
my condition to Friends at our Monthly Meet-
ing ; which I did soon after, as follows :

''An exercise hath attended me for some
time past, and of late been more weighty
upon me, under which, I believe it is required
of me to be resigned to go on a visit to some
part of the West Indies." In the Quarterly
and General Spring Meeting, I found no clear-
ness to express any thing further, than that I
believed resignation herein was required of
me ; and having obtained certificates from all
the said meetings, I felt like a sojourner at my
outward habitation, kept free from worldly
incumbrances, and was often bowed in spirit



before the Lord, with inward breathings to
him, that I might be rightly directed. 1 may
here note, that what I have before related of
my being when young, joined as an executor
with another Friend, in executing a will, our
having sold a negro lad till he might attain
the age of thirty years, was now the occasion
of great sorrow to me. After having settled
matters relating to this youth, I provided sea-
stores, a bed, and other things for the voyage;
and hearing of a vessel likely to sail from
Philadelphia for Barbadoes, I spoke with one
of the owners at Burlington, and soon after
went to Philadelphia on purpose to speak with
him again. He told me there was a Friend
in town who was part owner of the said ves-
sel; but I felt no inclination to speak with
him, but returned home. A while aftelr, I
took leave of my family, and going to Phila-
delphia, had some weighty conversation with
the first-mentioned owner, and showed him a
writing, as follows :

" On the 25th day of the eleventh month,
1769. As an exercise, with respect to a visit
to Barbadoes, hath been weighty on my mind,
I may express some of the trials which have
attended me, under which, I have at tiroes re-
joiced that I have felt my own self-will sub-
jected.

"Some years ago, I retailed rum, sugar
and molasses, the fruits of the labour of
slaves ; but then had not much concern about
them, save only that the rum might be used
in moderation ; nor was this concern so
weightily attended to, as I now believe it
ought to have been. But of late years being
further informed respecting the oppressions
too generally exercised in these islands, and
thinking often on the degrees there are in the
connexions of interest and fellowship with the
works of darkness, Ephe. v. 11. ; and feeling
an increasing concern to be wholly given up
to the leadings of the Holy Spirit, it hath ap-
peared to me, that the small gain I got by this
branch of trade, should be applied in promot-
ing righteousness on the earth ; and was the
first motion toward a visit to Barbadoes. I
believed the outward substance I possess
should be applied in paying my passage, if I
go, and providing things in a lowly way for
my subsistence; but when the time drew near,
in which I believed it required of me to be in
readiness, a difficulty arose, which hath been
a continued trial for some months past; under
which, I have with abasement of mind, from
day to day, sought the Lord for instruction ;
and often had a feeling of the condition of one
formerly, who bewailed himself, for that Che
Lord hid his face from him. During these
exercises, my heart hath been often contrite;
and I have had a tender feeling of the temp-



Digitized by



Google



LIFE OF JOHN WOOLMAN.



881



taticms of my fellow-fcreatures, tabouring un-
der those expensive castoms distinguishable
from the simplicity that there is in Christ,
3 Cor. ii. 3., and sometimes in the renew ings
of Gospel love, I have been helped to minister
to others.

" That which hath so closely engaged my
mind in seeking to the Lord for instruction
is, whether after so full information of the
oppression which the slaves who raise the
West India produce lie under, as I had in
reading a caution and warning to Great Brit-
ain and her colonies, written by Anthony
Benezet, it is right for me to take a passage
in a vessel employed in the West India trade.

'^To trade freely with oppressors, and with*
out labouring to dissuade from their unkind
treatment, seek for gain by such traffic, tends,
I believe, to make them more easy respecting
their conduct, than they would be, if the cause
of universal righteousness was humbly and
iirmly attended to, by those with whom they
have commerce. That complaint of the
Lord by his prophet, " They have strength-
ened the hands of the wicked," hath very oflen
revived in my mind ; and I may here add some
circumstances preceding any prospect of a
visit there. The case of David hath oflen
been before me of late years : he longed for
some water in a well beyond an army of
Philistines, at war with Israel ; and some of
his men to please him, ventured their lives in
passing through this army, and brought that
water.

'< It doth not appear that the Israelites were
then scarce of water, but rather, that David
gave way to delicacy of taste ; but having
thought on the danger these men were ex*
posed to, he considered this water as their
blood, and his heart smote him that he could
not drink it, but poured it out to the Lord.
The oppression of the slaves which I have
seen in several joumies southward, on this
continent, and the report of their treatment in
the West Indies hath deeply affected me ; and
a care to live in the spirit of peace, and min-
ister just cause of offence to none of my fel-
low-creatures, hath, from time to time, liv-
ingly revived on my mind ; and under this
exercise, I have for some years past, declined
to gratify my palate with those sugars.

**I do not censure my brethren in these
things ; but believe the Father of mercies, to
whom all mankind by creation are equally
related, hath heard the groans of these op-
pressed people ; and is preparing soon to have
a tender feeling of their condition : and the
trading in, or frequent use of any produce
known to be raised by the labours of those
who are under such lamentable oppression,
hath appeared to be a subject which may yet



require the more serious consideration of the
humble followers of Christ, the prince of
peace.

"After long and mournful exercise, I am
now free to mention how things have opened
in my mind, with desires that if it may please
the Lord, further to open his will to any of
his children in this matter, they may faith*
fully follow him in such further manifestation.

"The number of those who decline the
use of the West India produce, on account of
the hard usage of the slaves who raise it, ap*
pears small, even amongst people truly pious;
and the labours in Christian love on that sub-
ject, of those who do, are not very extensive.

"Were the trade from this continent to the
West Indies to be quite stopped at once, I
believe many there would suffer for want of
bread.

" Did we on this continent, and the inhabit*
ants of the West Indies, generally dwell in
pure righteousness, I believe a small trade be-
tween us might be right. Under these con-
siderations, when the thoughts of wholly de-
cling the use of trading vessels, and of trying
to hire a vessel to go in ballast have arisen itt
my mind, I have believed that the labours in
Gospel love, yet bestowed in the cause of uni-
versal righteousness, are not arrived to that
height.

" If the trade to the West Indies was no
more than was consistent with pure wisdom,
I believe the passage money would, for good
reasons, be higher than it is now ; and under
deep exercise of mind, I have believed that I
should not take the advantage of this great
trade and small passage money ; but as a tes-
timony in favour of less trading, should pay
more than is common for others to pay, if I
go at this time."

The first mentioned owner having read the
paper, expressed a willingness to go with me
to the other owner ; and we going, the other
owner read over the paper, and we had some
solid conversation; under which, I felt my
soul bowed in reverence before the Most
High. At length one of them asked me, if I
would go and see the vessel ; but I had not
clearness in my mind to go ; but went to my
lodgings and retired in private.

I was now under great exercise of mind ;
and my tears were poured out before the Lord,
with inward cries that he would graciously
help me under these trials.

In this case I believe my mind was re-
signed, but did not feel clearness to proceed ;
and my own weakness and the necessity of
Divine instruction, were impressed upon me.

I was for a time as one who knew not what
to do, and was tossed as in a tempest ; under
which affliction, the doctrine of Christ "Take



Digitized by



Google



883



LIFE OF JOHN WOOLMAN.



no thought for the morrow," arose livingly
before me. I remembered that it was some
days before they expected the vessel to sail,
and was favoured to get into a good degree
of stillness; and having been nearly two days
in town, I believed my obedience to my bea*
venly Father consisted in returning homeward.
I went over amongst Friends on the Jersey
shore, and tarried till the morning on which
they had appointed to sail ; and as I lay in
bed the latter part of that night, my mind was
comforted ; and I felt what I esteemed a fresh
confirmation, that it was the Lord's will I
should pass through some further exercises
near home.

So I went home, and still felt like a so-
journer with my family, and in the frtoh
spring of pure love, had some labours in a
private way amongst Friends, on a subject
relating to Truth's testimony ; under which I
had frequently been exercised in heart for
some years. I remember, as I walked on the
road under this exercise, that passage in Eze-
kiel came fresh before me, "Whithersoever
their faces were turned, thither they went ;"
and I was graciously helped to discharge my
duty, in the fear and dread of the Almighty.

After a few weeks it pleased the Lord to
visit me with a pleurisy; and afler I had lain
a few days, and felt the disorder very griev-
ous, I was thoughtful how it might end.

I had of late, through various exercises,
been much weaned from the pleasant things
of this life ; and I now thought if it was the
Lord's will to put an end to my labours, and
graciously receive me into the arms of his
mercy, death would be acceptable to me ; but
if it was his will further to refine me under
ainiction, and make me in any degree, useful
in his church, I desired not to die. I may
with thankfulness say, that in this case I felt
resignedness wrought in me, and had no in-
clination to send for a doctor ; believing if it
was the Lord's will, through outward means,
to raise me up, some sympathizing Friends
would be sent to minister to me ; who were
accordingly. But though I was carefully at-
tended, yet the disorder was at times so heavy,
that I had no thoughts of recovery. One night
in particular, my bodily distress was great;
my feet grew cold, and cold increased up my
legs toward my body, and at that time I had
no inclination to ask my nurse to apply any
thing warm to my feet, expecting my end was
near. After I had lain nearly ten hours in
this condition, I closed my eyes, thinking
whether I might now be delivered out of the
body; but in these awful moments my mind
was livingly opened to behold the church,
and strong engagements were begotten in me,
for the everlasting well-being of my fellow-



creatures; and I felt in the spring of pure
love, that I might remain some time longer in
the body, in filling up according to my mea-
sure, that which remains of the afflictions of
Christ, and in labouring for the good of the
church. After this I requested my nurse to
apply warmth to my feet, and I revived. The
next night feeling a weighty exercise of spirit,
and having a solid Friend sitting up with me,
I requested him to write what I said ; which
be did, as follows :

" 4th day of the first month, 1770, about
five o'clock in the rooming. — ^I have seen in
the light of the Lord, that the day is ap-
proaching, when the man that is the most
wise in human policy, shall be the greatest
fool ; and the arm that is mighty to support
injustice, shall be broken to pieces. The ene-
mies of righteousness shall make a terrible
rattle, and shall mightily torment one an-
other ; for He that is omnipotent is rising up
to judgment, and will plead the cause of the
oppressed; and he commanded roe to open
the vision."

Near a week after this, ieeling my mind
livingly opened, I sent for a neighbour, who,
at my request, wrote as follows :

" The place of prayer is a precious habita-
tion ; for I now saw that the prayers of the
saints were precious incense : and a trumpet
was given me, that I might sound forth this
language, that the children might beer it,
and be invited to gather to this precious hab-
itation, where the prayers of the saints, as
precious incense, arise up before the throne
of God and the Lamb— I saw this habitation
to be safe ; to be inwardly quiet, when there
were great stirrings and commotions in the
world.

" Prayer at this day, in pure resignation,
is a precious place : the trumpet is sounded,
the call goes forth to the church, that she ga-
ther to the place of pure inward prayer ; and
her habitation is safe."

CHAPTER XL
Preparing to vitit Friendt in England — £iii-
harkM at Chester^ in company with Samuel
Emlen, in a ehip bound to London — Hit deep
exercise, in observing the d^iculties and hard'
ships the common saUors are exposed to — Om-
siderations on the dangers to which ffouth are
exposed, in being trained to a seo'faring life;
and its inconsistency with a pious education-^
thoughts in a storm at sea; with many tn-
structive contemplations on the voyage—OT'
rivtd at London.

Havino been some time under a religious
concern to prepare for crossing the seas, in



Digitized by



Goo^'Z



LIFB OF JOHN WOOLMAN.



888



order to visit Friends in the Northern parts of
England, and more particularly in Yorkshire ;
afler weighty consideration, I thought it expe-
dient to inform Friends at our Monthly Meet-
ing at Burlington of it ; who having unity
with me therein, gave me a certificate. I af-
terwards communicated the same to our Quar-
terly Meeting, and they likewise certified their
concurrence therewith. Some time afler, at
the General Spring Meeting of ministers and
elders, I thought it my duty to acquaint them
of the religious exercise which attended my
mind ; and they likewise signified their unity
by a certificate, dated the 24th day of the
eighth month, 1772, directed to Friends in
Great Britain.

In the fourth month following, I thought
the time was come for me to make some in-
quiry for a suitable conveyance ; being appre-
hensive, that as my concern was principally
toward the Northern parts of England, it
would be most proper to go in a vessel bound
to Liverpool or Whitehaven. While I was at
Philadelphia deliberating on this occasion, I
was informed that my beloved friend Samuel
Emlen, jr., intending to go to London, had
taken passage for himself in the cabin of the
ship called Mary and Elizabeth, of which
James Sparks was master, and John Head of
the city of Philadelphia, one of the owners ;
and I feeling a drafl in my mind toward the
steerage of the same ship, went first and
opened to Samuel the feeling I had concern-
ing it.

My beloved friend wept when I spoke to
him, and appeared glad that I had thought of
going in the vessel with him, though my pros-
pect was toward the steerage; and he offering
to go with me, we went on board, first into
the cabin, a commodious room, and then into
the steerage, where we sat down on a chest,
the sailors being busy about us ; the owner of
the ship came and sat down with us.

Here ray mind was turned toward Christ,
the heavenly counsellor ; and feeling at this
time my own will subjected, my heart was
contrite before him.

A motion was made by the owner to go
and sit in the cabin, as a place more retired ;
but I felt easy to leave the ship, and made no
agreement as to a passage in her; but told the
owner, if I took a passage in the ship, I be-
lieved it would be in the steerage ; but did not
say much as to my exercise in that case.

AAer I went to my lodgings, and the case
was a little known in town, a Friend laid be-
fore me the great inconvenience attending a
passage in the steerage ; which for a time ap-
pei^red very discouraging to me.

I soon after went to bed, and my mind was
under a deep exercise before the Lord, whose



helping hand was nianifested to me as I slept
that night, and his love strengthened my heart.
In the morning I went again with two Friends
on board the vessel ; and after a short time
spent therein, I went with Samuel Emlen to
the house of the owner; to whom, in the
hearing of Samuel, I opened my exercise in
relation to a scruple I felt with regard to a
passage in the cabin, which was in substance
as follows :

I told the owner that on the outside of
that part of the ship where the cabin was, I
observed sundry sorts of carved work and
imagery; that in the cabin I observed
some superfluity of workmanship of several
sorts ; and that according to the ways of
men's reckoning, the sum of money to be
paid for a passage in that apartment, had
some relation to the expense in furnishing it
to please the minds of such who give way to
a conformity to this world; and that in this
case, as in other cases, the monies received
from the passengers, are calculated to answer
every expense relating to their passage, and
amongst the rest of these superfluities : and
that I felt a scruple with regard to paying my
money to defray such expences.

As my mind was now opened, I told the
owner that 1 had at several times in my tra-
vels, seen great oppressions on this continent;
at which my heart had been much affected,
and brought into a feeling of the state of the
sufferers. And having many times been en-
gaged, in the fear and love of God, to labour
with those under whom the oppressed have
been borne down and afHicted, I have often
perceived a desire prevalent to get riches and
provide estates for children, (o live conform-
ably to customs, which stand in that spirit
wherein men have regard to the honours of
this world. In the pursuit of these things, I
have seen many entangled in the spirit of op-
pression, and the exercise of my soul has been
such, that I could not find peace in joining in
any thing which I saw was against that wis^
dom which is pure.

After this I agreed for a passage in the
steerage; and hearing that Joseph White had
a desire to see me, I felt the reviving of a de-
sire to see him, and went to his house, and
next day home, where I tarried two nights :
and then early in the morning, I parted with
my family under a sense of the humbling
hand of God upon me ; and going to Phila-
delphia, had opportunity with several of my
beloved friends, who appeared to be concerned
for me, on account of the unpleasant situation
of that part of the vessel, where I was likely
to lodge.

In these opportunities, my mind through



Online LibraryWilliam EvansThe Friends' library: comprising journals, doctrinal treatieses, & other writings of members of the religious Society of Freinds → online text (page 83 of 104)