In order to promote thinking on the name and words of God; with a relation of a remarkable providence, which fell out at Port Royal, in Jamaica.
Journal of Thomas Chalkey. In: Evans, William and Evans, Thomas, eds. Friends' Library, Vol.
VI. Philadelphia: Joseph Rakestraw, 1842, pages 172-176.
This Document is on The Quaker Writings Home Page.
The author having been much pressed in spirit to write the following considerations, begs they
may be read with attention, and examined without prejudice. He hopes the learned and ingenuous
reader will excuse any faults in style or method, having respect to the sincerity of the intention,
which he professes to have had in this undertaking; and humbly prays that a divine blessing may
attend it, to the satisfaction and eternal advantage of all whom it may concern.
Having had some discourse with a young man of bright natural parts, concerning another world,
and of leaping out of this into that, in the dark, which must needs be very dangerous; and fearing
that many take that great leap in that manner, I have been induced to write these lines.
Upon which I cannot forbear asking, what man in his senses will venture to leap in the dark, he
knows not where? or into a pit, of which he knows not the bottom? To think of it is terrifying,
and must needs shock any considerate thinker.
Though a man, having a bright genius, and a large share of natural parts, may acquire much literal
and natural knowledge; yet, for want of a spiritual understanding, which is derived from the divine
Spirit, he may greatly err concerning true faith and religion, and have no just apprehension of the
eternal kingdom and judgment of God, or of another world; which it might be well for the
ungodly, were never to be at all: though even if this were to be supposed, yet to live virtuously, as
the bishop of Saturn observed to that great libertine, Lord Rochester, would be an advantage to
men, even in this world.
But if there should be an eternal righteous kingdom, of which we may internally and spiritually be
sensible, and a state of life therein to come; then, Oh, then! what will become of the wicked, and
all who forget God! and what perturbation of soul must attend such, when, under the convictions
thereof, they shall be ready to launch into eternity. I beseech thee, Oh, soul! seriously to consider,
before it be too late.
The great Saviour of the world says, "The kingdom of God is within you." That is, inwardly and
spiritually, to be known and percieved. He also says, "I am the light of the world." He, by this
divine and supernatural light, lights us through this dark world to his spiritual and glorious
kingdom, where he rules and reigns in transcendent majesty and brightness; of which his faithful
subjects are in some measure sensible; glory to the King of kings forever.
And that eminently wise apostle Paul says, "He was sent to turn men from darkness to light."
Darkness he calls the power of Satan, and light the power of God. Now as a man walking in
outward darkness is in continual danger of falling, not knowing whither he goeth; so also a man
living and walking in spiritual darkness, which is the power of'Satan, where the wonderful power
anckworks of God cannot be seen or understood, must needs be in the greatest danger of falling
into the bottomless pit of perdition, where horrible darkness and unntterable misery prevail
The many bitter cries, dreadful shrieks, and heavy groans, which my ears have heard from such
dark souls, ready to depart the body, have been enough to convince me of the judgment of
another world, though there had been no other demonstration of it to me. May our fine wits and
sprightly youths repent in time. Oh! my heart is pained for them; and my soul mourns in secret for
many of my former and latter acquaintance, and I have also tender desires for the well-doing and
well-being of mankind in general.
If any, by duly thinking of these things, should be awakened and convinced of their state, and their
former lives and wicked practices; and have so much light as to see the danger of living without
God in the world; but be ready to conclude, that if there be indeed a righteous God, who will
reward every man according to his works, there can then be no hope for them, they are such
wretched sinners. Oh, if this be the case of any, look not at such thoughts, which, in the midst of
your just apprehensions, Satan, taking advantage, may thus suggest to you; who having got you
deep already in the mire of sin, would by such infusions plunge you deeper both into sin and
Be it remembered that Christ died for sinners, even the chief, as Paul says, and he can make a
chief saint of a chief sinner, as appears in the case or that apostle, by his own testimony. God hath
done and can do it, though it be wonderful!
Wherefore abide not in darkness, but repent and turn to the light of life! strive and struggle for
life, the life of God in the soul of man! turn ye to the divine light; turn to God who is light, and in
him is no darkness at all; live and walk in the light of God, which is far above the light of human
reason; therein shall we have fellowship with the Father of lights, and his son Jesus Christ; whose
religion is spiritual: "God is a spirit, and they that worship him, must worship him in spirit and in
God must be worshipped in thought, word and deed; that is, in all things we ought to express an
humble reverence and adoration to the Sovereign Being, frequently meditating on his great name.
But all evil and sinful thinking we must refrain from with abhorrence, as displeasing to him, being
of the devil, that wicked spirit; and indeed it is contrary to the nature and end of free-thinking;
which is a sincere exercise of the rational faculty, in order to distinguish between good and evil,
truth and falsehood, that we may choose and acknowledge the one, and avoid and reject the
other. And here it may not be unfit to recommend the care of all our thoughts, fromwhence
proceed our words and actions, as naturally as good and evil fruit from the different seeds sown in
And as the truest and most sublime end of thinking, which is the reasonable service of every
intelligent being, is the contemplation, fear, and adoration of the Almighty Creator; so are we
thereto greatly encouraged by that Scripture of Malachi, which I am concerned here to transcribe
and recommend, viz: "Then they that feared the Lord, spake often one to another, and the Lord
hearkened and heard it, and a book of remembrance was written before him for them that feared
the Lord, and that thought upon his name. And they shall be mine, saith the Lord of hosts, in that
day when I make up my jewels, and I will spare them as a man spareth his own son that serveth
him. Then shall ye return and discern between the righteous and the wicked, between him that
serveth God, and him that serveth him not."
In which Scripture we may observe how great and glorious a reward is promised to those who
sanctify the name of the Lord; the consideration of which must needs raise their love and
admiration, and add to their present delight in such holy thoughts.
But, on the contrary, it is to be feared, that evil thinkers and actors, when the divine spirit and
light would inspire them with good thoughts, or convince them of their sins, endeavour to stifle or
overcome such thoughts or motions, as would awaken them to righteousness, or restrain them
from sin; and strive by their natural wit, to reason the good spirit out of their souls; at the same
time opening their hearts to the evil spirit and his suggestions, which they hug, to their own
destruction. But to judge rightly of these things, if' a man have ever so much natural wit and
strength of reason, it must be sanctified through his faithful subjection to the divine will, and
raised by divine inspiration; which as far surpasses hutnan reason as heaven is above the earth.
May our men of bright natural thought think clearly and seriously of this. This is evident in the
ease of the great apostle Paul, who was educated at the feet of Gamaliel, in the perfect manner of
the law, yet, by all his knowledge could not justly distinguish concerning religion, but was a
persecutor of the church of Christ. But when his knowledge and spirit came to be sanctified by the
grace and spirit of our Lord Jesus Christ, then, and not till then, he became of great and good use
to his Maker and mankind. Then his reason and religion became spiritual, "who had not conferred
with flesh and blood, but had been obedient to the heavenly vision." And he says, "If in this life
only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men the most miserable."
His hope and expectation, as well as of all faithful believers, must have been of another life, and
the kingdom of God hereafter: "For here," says he, "we have no continuing eity, but seek one to
come." And though the condition of such, in this life, be often exposed to much persecution and
trouble for their faith's sake, towards the name of God and testimony against this world and the
evil spirit ruling therein; yet, blessed be the MostHigh, he gives them strength and the assurance
of his favour, whereby they endure to the end, as well as that he refreshes them with his outward
blessings and comforts; so that they may well say with his ancient servant Job, "Shall we receive
good at the hand of the Lord, and not evil?" Thus afflictions have been indeed usually called, but
they often, in the hand of God, are means of redeeming the soul, and raising up many excellent
virtues, when they are rightly submitted to.
I would inquire what subject we can possibly choose so worthy of our meditation, or from
whence so great a benefit can redound both to spirit and body ? The fear and thoughts of
Ahnighty God, which are inspired by his grace sanctifying our hearts, thereby render us more fit
to receive his favours both to spirit and body, which he multiplies according to his wisdom and
good pleasure; and all our faculties and passions being redeemed and governed by the spirit of
faith, we shall possess and enjoy all things in a more regular and excellent manner. But who is
there that hath not been so great a partaker of the many blessings, with which the infinite Creator
filleth the world, and in an especial manner encompasseth mankind, as not to be obliged to a
continual acknowledgment thereof, and remembrance of the great and bountiful Author? The
state therefore of the wicked and rebellious, is stigmatized in holy Scripture, .with this character,
in particular, that "God is not in all their thoughts." And indeed for this came his judgment upon
the old world of. the ungodly, who cannot be supposed ever to have thought of the adorable
Lord, since every Imagination and thought of their hearts was only evil continually, as the
Almigbty himself hath complained.
But instead of the returns of faith and love, how sad a consideration is it, that there should among
men be found any so vile and foolish, as even to deny the divine existence, and the effects of his
infinite power in the external creation, and to affirm that all things have come by nature, without
God, or any supernatural power; which evil tenet, some have endeavoured to justify and support
by natural reason; "Wherein the name thereof may indeed be abused; but reason itself, which
concludes nothing without evidence, can never declare in favour of a proposition, for which, not
only none can appear, but-against which the whole world is full of it. But let this be disposed for
the judgment of' reason. When therefore it is said, that all things have come by nature; if thereby
we are to understand that natural things are severally self prouctive, this will be disproved by daily
experience; for we may observe, that they depend one upon another, and upon various causes for
production and subsistence, without which neither, in a state of nature, could possibly be. But if it
be meant of the universal system of natural things collectively this will less be allowed of many,
than of particular of them; because that would destroy the nature of a self-productive power,
which cannot be limited from being infinite, and therefore can be but one: one infinite supreme
nature therefore only can have self-existed and must have been the supernatural author and
power, by whom all other beings have existed: which refutes the above error, and rationally
proves and establishes the great truth in the question."
And this the Christian religion teaches in the greatest perfection, that the Creator of all things is
God, an infinite eternal Spirit, who filleth all things; who having been pleased to manifest his
eternal power and godhead in the visible frame of the universe, beareth witness of himself therein,
by his providence and judgments; and in every soul of man by his inward inspirations; especially
the sincere believer, in whom his spirit dwells and operates.
Oh ! that men therefore would lift up their minds and open their hearts to him, when by his holy
Spirit he reproves them for sin, and brings a damp upon their spirits for evil; from which they
would, perhaps, if they could, run, or divert themselves from the sense of it. But, alas! there is no
fleeing from his presence, who is everywhere; nor avoiding his judgment, whose kingdom
comprehends all things: but woe is especially to them with whom his spirit ceases striving. Holy
David certainly was very sensible of this, when he wrote that admirable description of the Divine
Omnipresence, "Whither shall I go from thy spirit, or whither shall I flee from thy presence? If I
ascend up to heaven, thou art there: If Imake my bed in hell, behold thou art there. If I take the
wings of the morning, and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea, even there shall thy hand lead
me, and thy right hand shall hold me. If I say, surely the darkness shall cover me, even the night
shall be light about me; yea, the darkness hideth not from thee; but the night shineth as day: the
darkness and the light are both alike to thee."
With these views of the infinite power and presence of the Almighty, I shall pass to the relation promised, which may here be properly inserted.
My author was Jonathan Dickenson, merchant in Philadelphia, who was present with the young
men whom this extraordinary providence befell, at Port Royal, in Jamaica: he gave me the
following account. Two ingenious young men, who were lately arrived at Jamaica, from London,
discoursing about earthquakes, asserted that all things came by nature: and so argued thereupon,
that it brought terror upon the company, who were many, at dinner, in an upper room. Whilst this
lasted, to the great astonishment of all present, the earth began to move and tremble, which put
most of them to flight in such haste, that they ran one almost over another, some down stairs,
others leaping over the balcony. But my author said he considered there was no running from
Divine Providence, and that the same hand which moved the earth, was able to preserve him; in
which he trusted, and was preserved. As he continued with the young men in the same room, Oh!
terrible to relate, and my heart and hand tremble in the writing thereof, the mighty hand of an
offended God struck these young men with death, and they fell down, and never rose any more,
being in all appearance unprepared for so sudden a change. Ana now many other gay, witty young
people have been suddenly snatched away by death, thou_~h perhaps not so immediately, nor in
so extraordinary a manner, seems worthy of reflection. The author of this account added, that he
took up the young men, and laid one of them upon a bed, and the other upon a couch; but that
they never spoke again after their blasphemy against God and his works. Upon which I think it
very natural, as well as necessary to remark, that this was indeed an eminent instance of the just
judgment of God against such as deny his wonderful power and providence in the creation; with
this terrible circumstance, that these unhappy persons were cut off in the midst of their ungodly
discourse and corrupt reasoning, without so much time afforded them as to ask pardon and crave
mercy of a provoked Lord; which is very dreadful to consider. I especially recommend it to the
serious reflection of all such as affect the name of free-thinkers, as they are commonly
distinguished, that they may no longer, under such a pretence, abuse their understanding with a
latitude of profane and evil thinking: who, as they must be sensible that they have not conferred
the excellent faculty of reason upon themselves, so they may as certainly conclude that they never
received it to exclude his existence, power, and providence, out of the world, who gave it to
them; nor to employ it to their own destruction, bu such a perversion thereof, which must
inevitably be the consequence, without timely and due repentance; but that they may apply
themselves to himfor true widom, who is the eternal fountain of it, who would direct all their
thought aright therein. Then would they find a substantial and enduring happiness and satisfaction,
in the the honourable thoughts and practice of true religion and virtue; and that all vain and evil
thoughts directly tended to the misery and destruction of mankind.
Lastly, if any expression in this short tract should prove successful to promote, in any measure,
the contemplation of the Divine Being; the consideration of man's duty to him, his Almighty
Creator, or to convince but one soul of the error of his thoughts and ways; the author will think
himself richly rewarded for his endeavours, and reverently ascribe the glory and praise to God, the
prime Author and mover of every good thing, who is worthy forever.