William Evans.

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

. (page 98 of 104)
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service to me in my painful moments, to have
beheld the fooUteps of others, if I had had sta-
bility to read, or quietness of mind to be in-
structed ; which for a time I had not, being

feeble and sorely broken, bemoaning myadf
by reason of the disquietude of my heart.

I was born at Newtown, near Carlisle, of
sober, religious parents. My father dying
when I was young, I had more experience of
my mother's religious care in our tm'tion. She
was lefl with four of us to bring up ; and her
zeal and care for her offspring abated not; so
that I have a good account to give of her pious
solicitude and concern for us. On that ac-
count, she hired a schoolmaster in the house,
to teach her children, to prevent oar being
corrupted, or learning the improper customs
of the people amongst whom we dwelt ; ao
that we were kept, more than many others of
our age, from associating with those of other

It pleased the Lord by his good Spint, to
work in my heart in my young years; which
brought a godly sorrow over me, and a fear
lest I should be taken away in my childish fol-
lies. When the bell used to toll for those of
other persuasions, oh ! the awe and inward fear

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attendant on these occasions ! I would say in
my heart; These are now called off the stage
of this world, and fixed as for ever they roust
be. My solicitude at times so far prevailed,
that I was desirous of knowing the age of the
deceased, and whether they were of ages simi-
lar to myself; and if they were, it added to
my fears, which at that time were piercing.
But if they were further advanced, 1 endea-
voured to appease these fears by considering
myself young, and that I might escape such a
removal in youth ; for I was afraid to die, and
that awful " for ever and ever," brought sad-
ness over me.

I loved to read the Scriptures, especially the
New Testament; and when I read the passage,
where our blessed Lord is described as having
sufiered so much from the high professors, who
despitefuUy treated him and crucified him, it
afflicted me deeply ; and I believed I should
not have done this: so my heart became melt-
ed and tendered under a sense of it.

About this time it pleased the Lord to send
into our parts Mary Kirby, a minister of Nor-
folk; and she being alone, requested me to
accompany her. My mother gave me up, and
it was a time of reaping some advantage ; for
when I returned home, I felt my heart in a
good measure cleansed and emptied of the old
inhabitants ; my stiff will being measurably
subdued ; and loving retirement, I was drawn
from my old companions.

I then witnessed a state of deep poverty of
spirit, which caused me thus to address the
Almighty: <*Lord! what wouldst thou have
me to do?" At that time I did not know there
was any thing in my conduct which dis-
pleased Him; but his word in me was, **I
must not only cease to do evil, but I must
learn to do well." Thus I experienced, when
the unclean spirit is gone out, we walk through
dry places, seeking rest but finding none. Oh !
that this time of drought and emptiness was
but patiently abode in ! but when all the old
inhabitants are cast out, the creaturely part is
apt to catch at something, to make up the loss
it has sustained; for how hard is it to live
without life in the creatures, or externals ! The
senses are continually seeking for something
to heal this deadly wound, and to replace
somewhat in an emptied mind ; for it is hard
thus to die to self. Therefore many are apt
to connect themselves again with those worse
than themselves, and their last state is worse
than the first.

I feel such heavenly serenity in my endea-
vours to bring together these few remarks,
which have long lain among my papers, that I
have no doubt it is right for me to leave them
to posterity; having a living hope in my heart,
that the perusal of these faithful sayings will,

under Providence, tend to reach and reduce
the uncircumcised Philistine nature. The in-
firmities attending my family in my younger
years, kept me much at home ; and now my
own weakness and infirmities are great and
many. Nevertheless my love is true to the
great and good cause, and I should be willing
to go the world over to edify the body, and
promote the reformation of mankind, and the
redemption of their souls, through Jesus Christ.

I continued to have this deep sense of pri-
vation and emptiness. I was sitting in our
women's meeting for discipline at Carlisle,
when it appeared clear to me, that if I con-
tinued thus inward with God, I should soon
have to speak to others. This intimation that I
was to be drawn to do well, was so far from
humbling me, that I did not even desire to be
excused, or pray my Divine Master to have
patience with me : but I resolutely said ; ^' I
never will do so." I started aside like a broken
bow, and I believe went into greater alienation
from the Divine life than I had ever done be-
fore ; and just it would have been, if Infinite
wisdom had cut me off in my disobedience.
I was guilty of many wrong things, which
brought heavy judgment on me; and living
with an aunt at Carlisle, I was much exposed;
she keeping a shop, and I being from under
the strict eye of my mother.

I was now about the seventeenth or eight-
eenth year of my age. Through every dis-
pensation, I had a great love for good Friends;
and they often manifested love for me ; own-
ing the valuable part in me, and overlooking
that which was rebukable, I doubt not, in the
faith that the Lord would carry on his own
work; and their open carriage towards me,
was so far from begetting disesteem in noe, or
inducing me to account them undiscerning,
that it wrought upon the better part ; for in-
deed I could have washed the saints' feet.
Ministering Friends lodged at my mother's,
and I sometimes got the blessing, which is
fresh with me to this day.

At the age of between one and two and
twenty, I was married to John Pearson, a so-
ber, religious young man. About a year after
ray marriage, my false rest was broken ; though
I was rightly married, and I trust in best wis-
dom. United to a choice husband, I swimmed
as in an ocean of pleasure ; but I witnessed,
instead of peace on earth, a heart-piercing
sword. My undone condition was present
with me day and night, when awake. Indeed
I slept but little ; sleep departed from my eyes
and slumber from my eyelids ; so that when
night came, I wished for morning. And
though I had been preserved from gross
evils, so heavy was the Lord's hand in judg-
ment against the sinful, impure part in me.

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that there was sufficient work for his heart*
piercing sword, which divides between the
precious and the vile, that which serves him,
and that which serveth him not.

In my own view, my case was now exceed-
ingly deplorable; so that I neither eat nor slept
much, which occasioned a visible decline in
my health. Indeed I was a wonder to behold ;
the people wondering what had befallen me. —
The enemy followed me closely with most
grievous besetments ; things that my very soul
loathed would he charge upon me to be my
own : and I, not having strength to resist, with
a " Get thee behind me, Satan ;" or on the
other hand, experience to distinguish what
proceeded from the enemy and his grievous
insinuations, and what arose from the weak-
ness of nature ; every thing in me appeared
out of order and a confused mass. I did
believe none ever was in such a state be-
fore; nor had I ever read of any of our
Friends who I thought had gone through such
various trying dispensations, what if I say for
two sabbaths of years, in which I feared I
should never get to the better side.

I ate my bread weeping, and mingled my
drink with my tears ; I was as if amongst
fiery serpents, and in the jaws of a devouring
adversary, who was exulting over me ; insin-
uating that the next temptation would sweep
me away ; and darting things into my mind,
one after another, as swift as thought and as
dark as the darkest night. Oh ! that my trou-
bles were written with an iron pen and lead
in the rock for ever, for surely they are far
beyond my power of description; and had
not mercy been extended to me in this trying
season, truly I had fallen. The dispensation
was so severe, that I could not tell how to live
under it ; and I wished the Almighty would,
by an act of his power, snatch me from mor-
tals, though it might be by an accidental
death ; for I still believed that if he did take
me, it would be in mercy. So earnest was I
after holiness and virtue, that I often besought
Him that he would never suffer me to sin
against him, that I might not be eternally
ranked with unclean and abominable spirits,
which my very soul loathed.

I now abhorred myself as in dust and ashes,
because the enemy was thus permitted to as-
sault me. But through all, my intellects were
preserved clear, and my reason sound.

About this time I was much drawn inward
in prayer ; for truly my tempted, bewildered
state called for it ; and for a time, I believe I
prayed without ceasing; and yet the Lord
knew what I needed, to fit me for his work
and service, and now, for my further refine-
ment, He permitted the enemy to come still
nearer; although I might say with one for-

merly, **Why doth he yet find fault, for who
hath resisted his will ?" This was one of the
closest trials I ever met with: one evening
when the enemy accused me of evil, and I
turned in prayer to the Judge of all the earth,
making my appeal that He knew I was not
wicked, beseeching that he would rebuke the
devourer for my sake, and set me at liberty to
serve him ; it was darted as quick as light-
ning, "There is no God!" Ohl then how
did I mourn I believing there was none who
had the least remains of good, that was ever
tried in this manner. I thought I was now
sinning against the holy Ghost, and that I was
the most wretched creature upon earth ; and
the enemy followed hard with his bitter whis-
pering, " To what dost thou pray ? There is
no God."

I never opened my case, under this dispen-
sation, to any one ; for I believed whoever I
opened my mind to, would suppose I had been
guilty of some gross thing, and therefore was
a castaway ; and I thought if I met with dis-
couragement, I should not be able to bear the
Lord's hand in judgment, because I had sin-
ned against him. At length I witnessed the
truth of that declaration : " When thy judg-
ments are in the earth, the inhabitants of the
world will learn righteousness;" for truly I
did experience inward purity of heart and
cleanness of hands; and in the Lord's own
time he gave access to his throne; and the
spirit of prayer and supplication was poured
out upon me, with a " Verily there is a God
that judgeth in the earth :" I then felt a holy
sense of this truth, " The Lord liveth," and
" because he lives, I live also."

This dispensation, when it had prepared the
way of the Lord and made his paths straight,
passed away, and I had now to say, the Lord
liveth, and I speak not falsely, because I know
what that precious knowledge of God has cost
me. I note these things for the help of any
that may be tried as I have been; for if I had
met with any such account it would have
relieved me. There may be testimonies of
Friends in the account of their lives, some-
what similar, but I had not read them or they
had gone from me. Nor could I believe that
any who were under the Divine notice, or the
turning of the holy Hand, were sufiered to
abide so long a time under such dark bewil-
dering suggestions.

May all who are thus proved, believe that
way will be made for their escape! Do not de-
spond nor cast away your confidence ! I feel
united to the suffering seed wherever they are,
or of whatever society they may be: I mourn
with those that mourn, compassionating their
distress. My commiseration and tender feel-
ing is towards these; and I can address them^

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not from any degree of experience to boast
of, but from the depth of humility, can say,
*^ Trust in God. He can set his seed at lib-
erty and will do it."

I now began to have great scruples respect-
ing my wearing apparel, as also that of my
children, and the furniture of our house, and
coveted to have all things enough in the sim-
plicity. I thought of John's raiment of camel's
hair, with a leathern girdle about his loins,
and that his meat was locusts and wild honey.
There was no delicacy here, either in eating
or apparel. Whatever the strong will in me
teemed to loath, or have an aversion to, into
that very thing, in the cross, was I led ; though
it seemed an indignity to my very frame and
disposition, which was not thoroughly redeem-
ed from nicety and a desire to be somewhat in
the eyes of the world. Thus I was led till
my will was subdued; and I was simple
enough, through being mortified every mo-
ment; for I had always some scruple upon
my mind whether things were right or not, till
I was rendered flexible and docile, ready to
take any impression the Lord would stamp
upon me ; and I pray it may be that of holi-
ness, during my stay in mutability; and after-
wards may I join the triumphant church,
praising the Lord God and the Lamb for ever
and ever.

About this time, I began to have some light
and life about me. I could not have believed
that I should be so clear of the bitter whis-
perings and insinuations of the crooked, pierc-
ing serpent; it being natural to conclude, when
things are so out of order, and the adversary
has effected such an inroad into the mind,
making a prey of it, that things will be hard
to set to rights; but it is the Lord's work, and
he shall have the praise, for all is due to Him,
and nothing is due to the creature.

I measurably witnessed an overcoming,
and a little of getting the victory; the head
of the serpent being bruised, the accuser cast
down, and his accusations silenced, being ac-
quitted of his false high charges against me ;
and in lieu thereof I obtained a precious feel-
ing of justification : all old things being done
away by that baptism which saves, all things
became new, and all things of God. I now
began again to have some view that I must
tell to others what the Lord had done for my
soul ; how he had plucked me out of the hor-
rible pit, out of the mire and clay; letting me
feel the sure foundation, and that I was to
keep upon it, and to proclaim the new song
that He would put into my mouth.

This was a day of close trial; for I was
brought to the test, whether I would keep my
covenant that I had made with the Lord, in
the days of my deep distress; which was,

that if he would but set me clear of the ene-
my, command what he pleased, I would obey,
let it be what it would. In assembling with
the Lord's people, and it was a favour to me
that I was amongst a living people, our nneet-
ings were oflen favoured with lively testimo-
nies. On such occasions, Scripture sentences
would impress my mind with some degree of
Hie and power, and according to my infant
state and inexperience, I felt some concern of
mind to declare them to the audience, though
the evidence was not so full and clear as my
diffident mind requested and really needed;
for I was desirous that I might be preserved
from saying " the Lord saith ; albeit, he had
not spoken."

This caused a strong conflict, a trying of
the fleece wet and dry ; my natural timidity
closely adhering to a corresponding care not
to cast untimely fruit, which soon comes to
decay. This made me very wary and cau-
tious, as I believed many had taken the pre-
paration for this office to be the commission,
and so had been dwarfs. On the other hand,
the remembrance of the covenant I had made
with the Lord in the days of my sore bondage
and deep captivity, and my now not answering
his requirings, made this a time of deep wading
for me. In meetings, matter would arise and
spread in my mind towards the people, and
yet I felt not the command. Oh I if any
should be thus tried, if they are resigned and
have minds devoted to the Lord, to such I
would say, "Fear not; the time will come,
when you will not doubt respecting the Lord's

I was about nine months under this try-
ing dispensation. It wore down the bodily
strength; my knees were weak; my flesh fail-
ed, though not with refraining from food ; my
face was often sorrowful through much weep-
ing, and on my eye-lids sat the shadow of
death, through these winnowing, sifting sea-
sons. Yet through all, I had a little hope,
which as an anchor stayed my soul, and raised
a holy belief that He who was my confidence,
would in his own time unfold the mysteries of
his kingdom and give an undoubted evidence,
with unsullied clearness, that it was his will
the candle he had lighted should be set on
the candlestick, to give light to those around.
Thanks be to his ever worthy name. He ful-
filled it ; so that when the right time came, in
which I was to open my mouth in public, I
had no doubt of its being his mind and will :
yet, through fear, I reasoned it away, but was
not severely chastened for it, as my heart was
steadily purposed to serve Him ; the will to do
good was present, but in the performance I
felt weak ; so the Lord forgave me, and my
mind enjoyed good till next meeting day» I

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then went in great fear, to our little meeting
at Graysouthen. A few words presented live-
ly, and I well remember the subject ; the pur-
port of them was, that if we were but more
inward in meetings, they would be more fa-
voured than we oAen found them to be. And
18 not this a truth at the present day.

My being thus cautiously led in the begin-
ning, has been helpful to me through the re-
maing part of my life, as to the ministry ; in
watching against false views and presenta-
tions, or taking the imaginary part for the
revealed will of God. Oh ! the peace that I
felt that night, afler that short testimony. It
would have been acceptable to have been dis-
solved and to have been with Christ, which is
iar better.

I had now great peace of mind, so that in-
stead of my heart being a place for dragons,
for owls, and for screech owls, for cormorants,
and for bitterns ; there began to be a melody
in it, as it were the voice of the Son of God,
whose countenance is comely; and the myrtle,
the box, and the pine, sprang up in that heart
which had been a breeding place for nettles.
This is the change that is wrought in man by
being born again of the incorruptible seed and
word of God. This was the change that was
wrought in me.

I was frequently engaged to speak in meet-
ings, and had satisfaction in so doing, and
Friends did not discountenance me in my little
childlike movings; but approved, though with
a godly care. And through abundant mercy,
I moved in my gid in simplicity, and did not
choose for myself, nor seek for openings, nor
dress my matter according to the creaturely
will, neither dared I to restrain openings ; all
which are unsavoury. The Lord taught me
to let it go just as it came; though with blush-
ing I may acknowledge that 1 lay very near
a right-hand error, if I may so term it. Great
were my care and fear, in joining with first
prospects; although they might be such as
to lead me to conclude, "Surely the Lord's
anointed is before me ;" yet they have passed
by, and a query has arisen, "Are all thy
children here?'' A proper query this; for
those who labour for the good of others ought
to have an especial care over their own house-

It often happens that the anointing is wit-
nessed on the lesser appearance, a single,
seemingly a poor sentence, not produced till
the last, and scarcely worth ranking with sub-
lime unfoldings, high in stature ; all the rest
passing by : " Send and fetch him, for we will
not sit down until he come." Oh, then the
holy command goes forth, "Arise, anoint him,
for this is he ;" and at some of these seasons,
the horn has been filled with oil. But this

care, though laudable, yet prevailed of\en so
as to keep lively openings, till the tide of good
was receding to the fountain or source whence
it sprung ; and so the testimony was not so de-
monstrative and explicit, as otherwise it might
have been ; producing a half strangled though
living ofiering. Read, you that can under-
stand, and escape this rock on the right hand;
for by this conduct, I often broke our ranks
in the ministry ; mine that should haye gone
first, being kept until the last. Little vessels
floating sooner than those of deep service and
heavy burdens, by getting out of the way of
these, make their passage easier and safe. If
any were more forward than myself, they
opened the door, and I, through an unavailing
trying of the opening, would close it and be
excused from meddling.

As I had a great love and care for the
blessed cause, that it might not sufller through
weak advocates espousing it, so I always
thought lowly of myself, and by keeping
back as above mentioned, I became the au-
thor of confusion and disorder; the people
were not so edi6ed, nor I so comforted, as
might have been expected, from the conflict I
had undergone. I believe this had sonne foun-
dation, in wanting to have a form of sound
words, that none could condemn : for though
I did not seek openings, or dress them as I
pleased, yet all must have a mode of expres-
sion suiting the matter, and to convey to the
audience their sentiments on religious things.
On this ground, I wished to have the little
matter set in order, for I feared being taken to
task for misquoting or misapplying the holy
Scriptures. But I was led clearly to discover
that the ministers of Christ must rise, when
perhaps but a word is given them, and minis-
ter according to the ability with which they
are favoured, not at all fearing man, whose
breath is in his nostrils, but serve and fear
the Lord only.

Her family-^Loss qf tu>o children — Decetue qf
her husband — Her tesiimonjf concerning kim —
Decease qf her only remaming ton — Fint
journey in the work of the minigtry — Decease
of her mother^ father-inAaw, and daughter
Hannah — Visits Lancashire, Cheshire^ 4*.,
and some Western counties-^Decease qf her
second daughter — Removal to Whitehaven,
1791 — Decease qf her youngest daughter —
Observations at various times, to the year
1795 — Her exercise respecting vocal supplica-
tion in meetings,

I NOW began to have great outward trials,
when there was an abatement in the inward.

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I had an a&ctionate husband, who in my in-
fant state bore part of my sufferings. 1 had
seven fine children, four girls and the young-
eat boys. Till this time the Lord had made
a hedge about us and all that we had. Though
we had not much to begin the world with, we
increased fast in temporals. It pleased the
Lord to remove two of my youngest children
by the small-pox, in a natural way, as we
could not be free to inoculate for it. I grieved
much that a breach was made upon us ; in-
deed I fretted too much. There was then . a
language proclaimed to my inward ear, if I
did not cease inordinate grieving, I should
have more troubles. The affectionate part
was strong, yet I trust I did not murmur
against the dispensations of unerring Wisdom.
In the next year my beloved husband was
taken from me! Oh, I could then have parted
with all my children to have had him spared;
for in him I was so bound up, that I believed
if he died, I could not live. He was my out-
ward strength ; and on him I relied for every
thing in this world. I am inclined to give
forth a testimony to his worth, as the widow's
mite to her children, or children's children,
that when we are gone, they may see from
what kind of stock they have sprung. For
their welfare my very soul is moved within
me, and causes me to go bowed down, im-
ploring that Divine assistance may be their
aid through this vale of tears.

Jams PsAUNrn's TeMtinumy concerning her dear
deceased husband^ John Psabson, who departed
this life the lAth of sixth months 1774.

Hb was bom of believing parents, who gave
him a tolerable education ; and I believe, ac-
cording to the best of their ability, trained him
up in the nurture of the Lord. He was reli-
giously inclined from his youth, so that in
some sense he was a Nazarite from his birth ;
giving full proof that he sought a better coun-
try than this world ; in which he had various

Online LibraryWilliam EvansThe Friends' library: comprising journals, doctrinal treatieses, & other writings of members of the religious Society of Freinds → online text (page 98 of 104)