A NARRATIVE OF THE EARLY LIFE, TRAVELS, AND GOSPEL LABORS OF JESSE KERSEY, LATE OF CHESTER COUNTY, PENNSYLVANIA
Taken from Philadelphia: T. Ellwood Chapman, 1851.
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Chapter 4: Voyage to Liverpool--Travels in England and Ireland--Return home--Reflections---Visit to Philadelphia--Reflections--Journey to the South, to visit Slaveholders--Visit to Philadelphia. (Part 3)
3d month 13th, 1840.--I have returned from performing a religious visit to a number of meetings in New Jersey. During my travels, it was pleasant to find many valuable members of the Society; and among them there are a number of young persons who appear to be making a right beginning. But they are exposed to many dangers, and can only be preserved by keeping faithful to the great Shepherd of the sheep.
I have seen that there is a disposition to be doing something by taking an active part with those who are not of us; and who, instead of waiting for the Divine Guide to put them forth, are always ready: and as these run unsent, they cannot prosper the work. It is now, as it always has been, that the great Author of all good "will not give his glory to another, nor his praise to graven images." All therefore who are useful in his work, must be guided by his wisdom in all their movements. Such will wait upon the Divine gift, and never attempt any thing of themselves.
It has also appeared to me that if the members of our Society join with other people, and carry their concerns out of the Society, they will in this way weaken themselves; and by carrying their concerns abroad, they will weaken the travail of the church. Whereas, if they would keep to their individual exercises, until they had ripened in their own minds, they would then be opened in the church with weight, and be acted be acted upon according to the mind of Truth; and as no good effort rightly made is ever lost, a happy effect would be produced. The members being thus united, and moving together, would be a strength to one another; and the unity of the Spirit, which is the bond of peace, would be preserved.
In our reflections upon the degraded and suffering condition of the oppressed African race, it is not marvelous that our sympathy should be powerfully excited, and that we should feel anxious to do something ,for their relief. But we may remember with instruction,-that Goodness knows and sees all their afflictions, and in his own time he will open a way for their complete relief.
It is quite probable that Pharaoh and his people thought they held the Israelites by a tie that could not be broken. But while they were supposing they had them perfectly secure, the Almighty had determined that they should be released. He therefore appeared to Moses, on the back side of the desert in the burning bush, and said to him "I have seen, I have seen the affliction of my people which is in Egypt, and I have heard their groaning, and am come down to deliver them." He then informed Moses that he was to be his messenger to Pharaoh to demand their freedom. We may remark the reluctance of Moses to go on this important errand to the king of Egypt: but after Divine Mercy had showed him his power, and put him in possession of means by which to convince those to whom he was sent, that the Great Jehovah had sent him, he went to his brethren, and to Pharaoh on the solemn errand, and told Pharaoh to let the people go that they might serve him. The great business was now begun. Pharaoh was apprised that he must let these people go. Nor was there any abatement of the demand, until the people of Egypt determined to drive them out.
Thus we may see that Divine Goodness in his own way and time took up the cause of his afflicted people, and completed their deliverance. By this wonderful interposition of Almighty power and goodness, we may see la the first place, that the Great Father of mankind not only sees but compassionates the sufferings of his creatures, and in his own time will deliver them, and lead them to a land of promise. In the second place we may observe that they had been in bondage for hundred and thirty years; and not until the expiration of that period was there a Moses raised up to plead their cause. It was then that the fire appeared on the back slate of the desert in a burning bush, and the bush was not consumed It was then a Moses was brought to see this great sight, that the bush burned and was not consumed. And here he was not only in formed that a gracious God had seen the affliction of his people, but that he had come down to relieve them from all their oppressions.
Here we may see that He who inhabits eternity, and whose name is Holy, not only regards the situation of his creatures, but in his own time makes a way for their enlargement. It was so with the children of Israel; and it must be so with the people of the African race. But if we take a deliberate view of the African race, and consider their situation, and of their being brought to America, it appears to be one of those cases that we may believe is under the notice of a superintending Providence; and I cannot doubt that in his own time and way he will complete their deliverance from the state of bondage and degradation that they are in. I cannot therefore but wish, that as Friends are the only people who acknowledge the Divine Spirit as the only safe and sure Guide to man, they would, in this concern, carefully mind the light of Truth in themselves, and keep out of all the mixtures that are in the world in relation to the subject of the emancipation of the enslaved African race.
Although I have no idea that the society of Friends should think of other classes of professing Christians as being inferior to themselves;--yet, as we believe we have been separate from them by the spirituality of our profession, it appears to me that the only way for us to fulfil the duty we owe to the great cause of universal righteousness is to act our part alone. We are not prepared to move or act with others, because we profess to be governed and actuated by the impulses of a higher principle than they do; for other professors do not pretend to believe in or wait for any divine influence communicated to man, as we do. Therefore, if we act up to the truth of our doctrine, we cannot do it consistently in connection with others who do not see the necessity of waiting for such influence. But by our remaining together and faithfully following the impressions of the Divine Guide, as they are clearly opened to us, we shall be more likely to perform our duties correctly.
When Friends were separated from the rest of mankind, we know they were a persecuted people; and to this day they stand very much alone in a doctrinal point of view. Until other professors become willing to admit the truth of their profession, I can see no propriety in Friends joining with them in carrying out the testimonies of Truth. It is a fact that the doctrine we hold of waiting for the manifestation and qualifying influence of the Spirit, is a persecuted doctrine by many. And as the testimonies of Truth held by Friends, can only be promoted in the world by the power of the Principle from whence they proceed, it can, in my view, be the only safe way for the society to keep together, and carefully fulfil what they find to do in the clear manifestations of the Light of Christ.
4th.mo. 2d.--Time is passing on, and so far as I .can see, I am now quietly in my place. No doubt every period of life has its duties; and I esteem it a privilege when I can have a clear sight of mine. When we are wholly given up to do the Lord's will, it is not often that we are at a loss in understanding it. Our greatest difficulty in gaining a correct judgment, is chargeable to ourselves. The light of Truth is always present with the honest and upright mind; but many live in great degrees of uncertainty, from not having their own wills brought into subjection to the divine will. There is no condition more desirable than that of the perfectly passive state. It is when this is our attainment, that we are free from all anxiety. Many are kept in anxiety and trouble by anticipation. They picture to themselves difficulties which never take place; and thus disturb their own feelings and sometimes the comfort of others. If we properly considered the laws of Infinite Wisdom, we should probably find that our situation in this world was rendered as favorable as we could reasonably desire, and that the wants of nature are few and easily supplied. It is from indulging in wrong habits that we are landed in difficulty. The doctrine of the primitive believers was, that "we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain that we can take nothing with us out of it." Therefore, according to their belief, "having food and raiment, we should therewith be content." Those who are not so, do but make trials and difficulties for themselves.
4th mo. 11th, 1840.--I was at a Monthly Meeting, in which I felt my mind tried with a circumstance that occurred; and which I considered to be out of the order of Friends. There was an appearance in prayer, and during the time of vocal supplication, several persons kept their seats, and did not rise nor uncover the head. Considering this practice, I felt tried; because I could not believe that such conduct would ever be the means of building one another up in that faith that overcometh the world. In my reflections upon the subject, my views were extended to the principles upon which religious society should be formed. There is no principle of equal value to the existence of religious society with that of unity. If once the unity of society is lost, all that will be left will be of little value. Hence, I conclude that any part of the conduct of a Friend which strikes at the unity of the body is dangerous, and should be carefully guarded against.
4th mo. 19th.--Since the death of my esteemed friend Mary Lukens, it has seemed proper for me to spend some time with the family she has left. Her husband, Daniel Lukens, is much afflicted with a local disease; and in reflecting upon his case, my sympathy has been much excited. I find it is a valuable attainment to be resigned to our situation, and patiently to wait the Lord's time for our release: for his time we must believe is the best time. When we are the subjects of pain and disease, there is sometimes a tendency in our nature to covet that a change might come; and hence we are liable to the danger of becoming impatient. But if we indulge in that state of feeling, we only increase our own suffering. The mind that can retain a steady condition, is always the most happy in the end.
In my reflections upon the variety which we have to pass through in the journey of life, it has appeared to me that kind Providence has subjected us to no one circumstance, but with a design that each of them should be useful, and tend to promote our improvement. King David said of himself, "Before I was afflicted I went astray." This may be the common tendency of the human race, but it does not appear to me to be necessarily, so. I view it rather as a consequence of the want of watchfulness and true devotion of mind.
4th mo. 20th.--I was at the Western Quarterly Meeting of Ministers and Elders. In this meeting Friends were much tried with a zealous woman who seemed to think that much was laid upon her in consequence of the decline of Friends from a faithful regard to their religious principles. But I saw that her zeal was not governed by a proper knowledge of the real state of things; and therefore her communications only went to interrupt the minds of others and hinder them from being gathered to the proper state of feeling, and of learning our true condition.
During the consideration of the Queries, a dear old father delivered a living and reaching testimony, which had the effect to stir up the pure mind, and edify the meeting. I rejoiced that he was so favored, and added my testimony to the justice of his concern,--fully believing that he had presented a view that should seriously engage the attention of all present.
Next day the Quarterly Meeting for business came together, in which I was led back to the Mosaic account of creation,--and that when the earth was without form and void, and darkness was upon the face of the deep, God said Let there be light; and there was light. It appeared to me that this great principle, both in the material and the spiritual world, could only come from him who is declared to be "Light, and in him is no darkness at all." In pursuing the opening before me, I was led to show that the apostle Paul, by the manifestations Of this light, found that he was a persecutor. And hence he was led into a deep and serious inquiry into his own nature, and the causes why he had been landed on such erroneous ground. By this important search into himself, he became acquainted with the composition of man, and therefore gave his testimony that "that was not first which is spiritual,--but that which is natural." In which he fully agreed with the account given of the creation of man,--that his body and the animal spirit were first formed, and afterward the Creator breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, by which man became a living soul. Here, we have evidence of the state of union between the Creator and the creature. Now to preserve this union is the great design and object of true religion; and this is only known and witnessed by those who experience the animal nature subjected in them to the divine. The testimony was owned by a deep and solemn feeling in the meeting.
2d of 8th month, 1840.--I am now in the close of my seventy-second year. My thoughts continue to be active in the various concerns of the day. After the experience of a middling long life, I see no cause to doubt the truth of the principle professed by Friends, and their belief in the manifestation of the Divine gift of God to man. And it seems to me that if they are faithful in following this heavenly Guide, they must continue to be a light to the world, and advance the cause of universal righteousness. Already it is evident that they have been instrumental in holding up many valuable testimonies. The tights of conscience have been plead by them; and mankind now agree to a large extent that it is a principle which no human authority can control, or has any right to interfere with in matters relating to our duty toward the Supreme Being. Other testimonies are also embraced in the profession of Friends, that are of great value to mankind. Witness their doctrine in relation to oaths,--a hireling ministry, and beating of arms. Each of these is a testimony so important to the human family, that they should all be kept in view and faithfully maintained with the greatest integrity and care. On the subject of the ministry, their testimony to its purity and freedom is of sufficient importance to demand the most rigid attention. If the Society should ever let fall this testimony, it will be a departure from a great Christian obligation, and an immense loss to the subject of the spreading, of the light of the glorious gospel.
Besides the preceding valuable points of the principles of Truth, Friends have adopted the most rational and perfect mode of social: worship, that is to be met with; because they meet and sit in silence. In this state every mind has the opportunity of attending to its own condition; and if it holds to a state of union with the divine gift, it may in the silent state of the meeting, be prepared devoutly to worship God in spirit and in truth. Again, if an individual in the meeting should be sensible of having been unfaithful, or disobedient, and therefore should feel condemnation,--there is the advantage of silently attending to its own case; and thus the mind may become prepared (by a deep-felt spiritual repentance)to return with honest integrity to its merciful Creator, and renew its covenant with him: in which case it has gained a qualification to worship in the beauty of holiness.
Not only have these silent opportunities an advantage in favor of honest integrity, but they put it in the power of the sincere-hearted to feel after and to understand their real condition, their spiritual state. But when an assembly are met together for the purpose of divine worship and religious improvement,--and immediately on entering their meeting-house, begin to pray, or sing, or in any other manner become active,-there is great reason to doubt the soundness of their proceedings; because it is quite probable that the services they so hastily engage in have no higher principle than the mere will and activity of the creature. And though such may seem to kindle a fire, or warmth of zeal, and to move in the light of the sparks thereof,--they may find the effects of this creaturely activity to be as declared by the prophet, "This shall ye have of mine hand, ye shall lie down in sorrow."
8th mo. 9th, 1840.--Being now a member of Fallowfield Monthly Meeting, I was favored in one of our religious opportunities with some views of the attribute of mercy that were instructive; and it appeared to me to be my duty to make the following remarks on the subject. We may hold a belief in the existence of this wonderful attribute, and yet not be proper objects for it to act upon. Those who witness the precious enjoyment of this divine attribute, are such as sincerely abhor all evil, and are endeavoring to be conformed to the heavenly Father's will. Such are coming out of the follies of the world, and are entering into the divine life, and to these is the attribute of mercy extended. But While people are living in the indulgence of the passions and propensities of the natural mind, they stand in a state of wilful disobedience, and therefore are not children of the kingdom and government of Christ. For, in order to become members of his church, it is necessary that he alone should rule and govern all our actions. Such as these are the objects of his mercy, and it is his good pleasure to own them by his blessed light, truth, and spirit, in their hearts. To such is the heavenly Father's love, and his mercy is over them for good, while they continue to walk in his law.
12th.--This evening I was led into a state of serious thoughtfulness on the solemnity of the Divine admonitions. I think I have never known a season of so much heavy thunder, nor heard of so much destruction of property by the lightning. I cannot believe that all these awful thunderings are the mere consequence of the common course of the elements. Doubtless, Divine Providence has certain fixed laws and principles that usually operate in the general course of all nature. But when a large number of buildings and property is destroyed in one day, and in a particular neighborhood, it seems right that it should lead the mind into some serious inquiries, whether there is not a special cause for the dispensation of those awful events.
On the 14th, in company with Joseph S. Walton and wife, I attended the funeral of Samuel Pennock. As my mind was preserved in a state of inward attention to the impressions of the divine gift, I found a concern to invite the company into the meeting-house, and a blessed meeting we had. He that promised to be to his people a present help in every needful time, graciously condescended to favor us with light and understanding, and by his heavenly aid the gospel was preached in the life and simplicity of its own character; and it appeared that many minds were visited with the renewal of the glorious dayspring from on high. I returned to my present peaceful home with a mind at rest and peace in itself.
On the 15th of the 10th month, 1840, William Ellis, from Monallen, and Caleb Ogborn, from New Market, were at our meeting. William's testimony was lively and, feeling. I felt much sympathy with him, as a plain, honest man, and wished him encouraged to a faithful discharge of his duty; he being one of those humble-minded .men that have come into the society by convincement.
24th.--I attended our meeting at Fallowfield, and had an important testimony to deliver on the great advantages of waiting on the Lord. The meeting was solemnized, and ended in the life.
11th mo. 7th.--I attended our Monthly Meeting, of Fallowfield, held at Doe Run meeting house. On my arrival there I was agreeably surprised by seeing two of my old acquaintances and friends, James Walton and Joseph Briggs. I found they had left their homes and rode upwards of forty miles on purpose to see me, and know how I was situated, and what state they could report my mind to be in. It appeared that some who had gone from Friends had reported that I had become melancholy, and was rendered useless. It is marvelous how men can delight in detraction and in spreading false reports. But when they become deluded, they can make even lies their refuge: every work, however, has its appropriate reward, whether it be good, or whether it be evil.
Having opened in our Monthly Meeting a concern to visit Warrington Quarterly Meeting, and some meetings on the way, it was united with, and a Minute furnished me for the occasion. I accordingly set out on the 18th of the 11th month, 1840, having Joseph S. Walton for my companion. We stopped a short time in Columbia, where, amidst the rejoicings of the people on account of the election of President, one man had his arm broken by the unlooked for discharge of a cannon, and others were in great danger of losing their lives.
On seventh day, the 21sh the meeting of ministers and elders met. They were a small company; but in sitting quietly among them, I felt thankful in being impressed with a clear sense that they were mercifully cared for by the Head of the church. And a hope was entertained that if they continue faithful, there will be a gathering and increase of Society. Next day the public meeting was mercifully crowned with a deep felt solemnity. I have seldom witnessed the power of Truth to be in such admirable dominion as in this meeting. I was led to show that the work of man's salvation consisted in a perfect conquest over the natural spirit; and also that this was a change which Christianity called for; likewise, that the apostle Paul in all his ministry pointed to this victory as a state of the triumph of the soul of man over the animal nature.
On the 23d, the Quarterly Meeting assembled, and it appeared to be a solemn and important meeting. In it I was led to open views of the necessity of obedience to the gift of God, as the only means of being saved from all iniquity. The meeting ended with much satisfaction, and in the evening following we had a precious opportunity where we lodged.
On fourth day, the 25th, we were at Huntington meeting. It was an opportunity in which I was led to urge upon the assembly the awful necessity there was rightly to improve the time, in order that they might be fitted and prepared to enter the eternal world. In this meeting my mind was much humbled under a sense of the mercy and grace furnished to that assembly. In the evening I had an important opportunity with a number of Friends, in which I succeeded in convincing most that were present, that as a Society, we were called to peace; that in order to obey this call it was necessary that we should remember that our holy Head had declared that his kingdom was not of this world; but that it stood in the peaceable, lamblike nature and spirit. Hence I inferred that the members of it should keep out of all strife and contention, and set an example of complete separation from all the noises and tumults that are going on among men; for I could not see how Friends were to maintain the peaceable testimony with consistency, and at the same time take a part in the political contests that were agitated in the world.
6th.--We parted with Friends at Huntington, and rode to Yorktown, where I had an appointed meeting with the inhabitants. It was a memorable opportunity, in which many minds were solemnized by the blessed power of the gospel of Christ, and I was glad to find much tenderness among the people. Visits were also made to sundry other places, much to my satisfaction. At Berlin, however, it was a time of trial, but ended under a satisfactory solemnity. To me it is always cause of thankfulness, when the people are brought into a state of true silence. It is then that I believe the voice of the Shepherd and Bishop of souls is heard, and the company benefitted.
I was also at some places not much visited by Friends, and it appeared to be particularly encouraging to many of the inhabitants to find that they had been thought of in this way.
After my return home, my thoughts were often engaged in a view of some of the transactions that are going on in the Society of Friends; and I have had my fears that all things are not as they should be. The part that is taken by some of our members, is of an active kind; and I am afraid it will be said to them by the great Judge of quick and dead, "Who hath required this at your hands?" If it be an activity that has its origin in the first or earthy nature, it will not be approved by Him who has declared that he will not give his glory to another, nor his praise to graven images.
On the 25th of the 5th month, 1841, accompanied by my kind friend, Joseph S. Walton, I left my present residence, with a view of paying a religious visit eastward, as far as Nantucket. We called at Westchester, and spent a little time with my daughter, who has been much confined with sickness in her family through the past winter. Thence we went on to Philadelphia, and took the cars for New York, where we arrived on the 26th, and were kindly received at Dobel Baker's. Here I had a visit from Rachel Barker and her husband.
28th.--I attended two sittings of the Yearly Meeting, in both which it appeared to me that Friends understood one another, and they were satisfactory seasons. In making my observations on Friends of this Yearly Meeting, it was comfortable to find that brotherly love and kind feelings prevailed among them. In one of the sittings of this Yearly Meeting, I made some remarks on the value of Friends living in subjection and obedience to the Divine gift; showing that it was only as this was the case and practice of Friends, that the life and power of God reigned over all. After the business of the meeting was concluded, a solemn pause took place, and Friends separated under a grateful sense that they had been favored together in transacting the concerns that came before them.
After this I went on board the steamboat called the "Narragansett," and by reason of a thick fog we were kept on board till twelve o'clock on seventh day. Then went on and arrived at New Bedford in, the night. On first day I was at two satisfactory meetings there.
We lodged at the house of William Rotch, who lives here in the full enjoyment of ample means, and the disposition to accommodate his friends, and make them comfortable. In this town, which is handsomely situated on the sea shore, there are many houses that appear like palaces; one of which was pointed out to me, that cost in building, eighty thousand dollars! Such are certainly not proper examples for Friends; yet in this place there is much that goes to prove that the wealth of the world has very much led away some from the principles of moderation, plainness, and simplicity, as professed by the Society.
On the afternoon of second day, I made some visits to the aged and afflicted. One was to Ann Rotch, the daughter of my old friend~ James Smith, of Philadelphia. She was in poor health, and aware of her situation. I was pleased to find her possessed of so much clearness of judgment, and correctness of views, and it seemed to me that she might come to a happy close.
Another visit I made to the widow of Samuel Rodman. Here we had a religious opportunity, which seemed to be a favored one. This dear friend was then turned of eighty years old, and still vigorous and lively. In these visits I had the company of Sarah Underwood, a valuable, minister from the Genessee country. Next day we embarked on board a steamboat, and had an agreeable passage to Nantucket, where we arrived about five o'clock, and went to the house of Nathaniel Barney.
6th month, 2d.After taking a ride to the margin of the ocean, and viewing the awful grandeur of the returning waves, beating in endless succession upon the sandy beach, we returned to the town, and at half past seven o'clock proceeded to an appointed meeting. It was a time of trial, from a sense of great indifference to the concerns of true religion. But feeling my mind acted upon by a necessity to advocate the great cause, I rose and communicated what seemed to be given me; and found by continuing in the patient travail, that life was in some degree felt, and the meeting concluded under a sense that the cause of Truth had not suffered by it. Next day I attended Friends' week-day meeting, in which I felt my way to remind them of the great obligations we are under to the Giver of every good and perfect gift, for the merciful influences of his blessed Spirit, by which we are put in mind of our duty, and by which also we may see how to stand in the divine sight.
4th.--I looked round the town of Nantucket, and found it to be a place of but little regularity. There are great establishments for preparing the oil for use which is obtained by whaling; and there are large quantities of spermaceti candles made here. Those who are engaged in this kind of business must employ a large capital. There is danger in such large concerns of worldly business, of the mind becoming too much engrossed therein, and thereby being led away from that state of watchfulness and careful attention to duties of a more exalted nature, becoming beings formed for the enjoyment of immortality and eternal life.
We visited several persons advanced in life, one of whom was a man turned of ninety years of age, who had lost his eye-sight. This man makes no complaint about any thing. He thinks the time of his stay here a subject with which he has nothing to do; but that it is his duty to wait patiently until his change comes. It was instructive to me to be convinced by the example of this individual, that it is possible to be so disciplined as to be perfectly at rest on the margin of eternity.
6th.--I am convinced that Friends here have much in their power, if they would but keep subject to the blessed government of Christ, our holy Head. In that case an example would be set that would have a very convincing effect upon others. We attended their two meetings held this day; and although I did not find the life and power of Truth to rise into dominion in so eminent a manner as has sometimes been the case, yet the opportunities were favored with a good degree of solemnity, and I parted with Friends under a feeling of gospel affection.
This evening, in a parting opportunity with a number of Friends, a solid and deep feeling was experienced, under which a door was opened to pray to God for the glorious coming and advancement of his own righteous cause of Truth in the earth. The minds of those present were rendered near and dear to one another, in the pure feeling of the blessed gospel of Christ, the Saviour of men.
In passing about among Friends on this island, I perceived they were in the habit of much conversation. I felt the want of stillness, and was desirous to promote a disposition of retirement; believing that as Friends get off from this inward, attentive state, they suffer a serious loss, and become weakened, so as to depart from that lively feeling in which a knowledge of the mind of Truth is gained.
After visiting the poor at the house provided for their accommodation, and having a satisfactory meeting with the colored people, we parted with friends of Nantucket, and had a favored passage to New Bedford. In the evening we had a serious, and it is hoped a profitable meeting in this place.
Next day, the 10th of 6th month, we parted with our New Bedford Friends, and had a pleasant journey to New York, partly on the railroad, and partly by steamboat. In traveling at this amazingly rapid rate, my mind was forcibly struck with the vast difference between our getting along, and the traveling of our early Friends.
On seventh day evening we had a meeting at Friends' meeting-house on Downing street. Soon after it was gathered, a precious solemnity was felt; and during the testimony that I was led to deliver, this solemn feeling was happily increased; and such was the blessed effect that it seemed to embrace every mind present. I returned to my lodging rejoicing that Truth had reigned over all, and passed the night in sound, refreshing sleep.
13th.--First day morning, I attended Rose street meeting; in which I felt my mind opened to offer a small matter. But darkness seemed to thicken before me, and after saying a few words, I sat down, content to bear my own burden. After a few minutes, life arose; and with it a happy covering of humble confidence in the power of Truth, which gave an authority to proceed, and I delivered what was given me, to the relief of my own mind. In the afternoon I was at Hester Street Meeting, in which I had a favored opportunity; at the close of which I rejoiced because of the triumph of the great principle of Truth. The service was principally to urge the necessity of man's devotion to the manifestations of the light of the Spirit,--not only in great affairs, but also in matters by some held to be but small.
Next day I visited among my friends, and felt a particular satisfaction in the evidence of brotherly regard. The day following, Amos Willetts took us in his carriage to his father's, at Westbury, on Long Island.
16th.--Attended Westbury Monthly Meeting; in which I had a testimony to deliver, which appeared to have a solemnizing effect, and I felt renewed in a blessed confidence in the guidance and government of the Divine Spirit. Next day we attended Jericho Monthly Meeting, which was a satisfactory opportunity; and I felt glad to observe the harmony prevailing among Friends. Lodged at Valentine Hicks's whose valuable wife is one of the daughters of the devoted Elias Hicks.
It is an important concern to visit the churches; and in passing through the service, there is great necessity to be watchfully on our guard; more especially in the present state of society. We now find that Friends have various views and modes of thinking, as to the duties we are called to: some think it is the duty of the society to mingle with other religious professors in promoting the cause--others believe that our preservation depends upon keeping separate, and minding our own business. For my part, I cannot think that we shall ever fulfil our duties, by getting into the mixture. It appears to me that the society has been much favored from its first rise, with the pure light of Truth; and that in our solemn deliberations, it has often been our privilege to see that by dwelling alone we have maintained our strength, and have been favored to see what duties we are called to and what subjects it has been best for us to let alone.
20th.--Had a meeting at Brooklyn, which was a precious opportunity. The sincere-hearted were encouraged, and the self-sufficient philosophers warned. In the evening I had a very large meeting in the city of New York; in which my way opened to deliver a testimony, embracing a view of the importance of witnessing a subjection of the will of the creature to the will of the Creator. The testimony had a solemnizing effect: and I parted with Friends in much love.
Next day, we went on the steamboat, in the morning, and arrived in Philadelphia at one o'clock in the afternoon. On looking toward home, I felt a stop in my mind, and it appeared right that I should appoint two meetings in the city, if way opened for the same. But some Friends did not unite with this proposal.
22d.--This morning I felt at liberty to return home, where I arrived in the afternoon. It was cause of gratitude to feel my mind clothed with a peaceful quiet on my return. I also had much cause reverently to adore my merciful Creator for having furnished me with-the needful help for every service unto which I was called.
When we are drawn from home in the service of Truth, it is a great favor to be permitted to see our way dearly from day to day, as we are passing along. But sometimes there are individuals who, from a particular desire that their meeting, or some other place should be visited, will try to urge the consideration of their proposals. By listening to the persuasions of such, the mind may become clouded; and thus the proper qualification to decide correctly may be lost, and the understanding involved in doubts.
When an instrument has been qualified to deliver a powerful and baptizing testimony, there are sometimes found those who extol him and thereby endanger his standing by raising in him a high opinion of his own qualifications. This applause of the instrument is always improper; and if the minister is not well guarded, may produce a very dangerous opinion of his own consequence.
27th.--On looking over the testimony of Margaret Fell concerning her husband, George Fox, it appeared farm her account, that he was a man of constant devotion to the cause of God. In her view he was the first great instrument, raised up by the Divine Power to preach the everlasting gospel, after the dark night of apostasy that followed the days of the primitive church of Christ. Her testimony is a very clear one. But it would seem extraordinary, if the society of Friends in less than two hundred years should depreciate, and lose the life and power of religion, so as again to descend into a state of apostasy.
On the 20th of the 8th month, 1841, accompanied by Joseph S. Walton, and Abigail, his wife, I set out on a visit to some meetings and places in Lancaster county. That evening we lodged at Jesse Webster's.
On first day the 22d, in the morning, we attended Lampeter meeting, and found the way open to deliver a testimony therein, and felt satisfied. In the afternoon I was at a meeting appointed in a neighborhood from among Friends. In it my spirit suffered under a sense of the want among the people, of being devoted to the gift of God in themselves; yet I was favored to deliver a very instructive testimony among them. My mind was in good measure relieved; though I could but mourn over the effect produced by an outward and formal ministry. Oh! saith my soul, when will the professors of the name of Christ, cease from man whose breath is in his nostrils? When will the inhabitants of the world come to rely alone upon that gospel which is preached in every creature, and which is the power of God unto salvation to all them that believe in and obey it! My spirit is grieved with the kind of preaching that is tolerated in the world, because I am sensible that much of it proceeds from that spirit that is cursed above every beast of the field. It seems to me that mankind are generally under and subject to the first, or animal nature; and that by the activity of this nature alone, they are led and moved in most of their professedly religious devotions. But all that can be gained by the wisest of those who are not subject to the eternal word of God, will end in disappointment and death; because it is not only by the power and influence of this living word, that the soul of man will ever be separated from the transgressing nature, and raised into the enjoyment of the favor of God.
After visiting some of our friends, we had a meeting at Bart on third day the 23d of the month. In this meeting my mind was again opened to bear a living testimony to the power and influence of the gift of God to man; showing that as the members of the primitive church stood faithful to this divine gift, the great cause of universal righteousness was advanced in the world. And that when the professed members of the church departed from the heavenly gift, the church lost its original standing, and darkness and superstition were introduced. If we of the present time are kept in the life and power of the gift of God, we must embrace it as our supreme teacher and director; for no other power or principle can ever redeem the soul of man, and give a qualification to enjoy the society of the blessed in the kingdom of God.
We lodged at Levi Pownal's, where I found the children respectful to their parents, and pleased with our company. I have often been in families where the conduct of the children has been very different. I believe it will always be found to be the case, that when they are taught a respectful obedience to their parents, they will be kindly disposed toward their friends.
24th.--We were at Sadsbury meeting, which was large for the place. In it my mind was much oppressed; but as I kept in the patient labor, life rose, and way opened for the delivery of an important testimony. I saw in the pure light that the state of the professors of the name of Christ, was generally one of great darkness; and I reminded Friends of the ground occupied by the primitive believers; and which, after a long night of apostasy and darkness, was again taken by our early Friends. I also held up the view, that the true light would again shine forth, and that many as from the four corners of the earth would be led by it, and thus be fitted to belong to that glorious company which John saw, that were gathered out of all nations, kindreds, tongues, and people. The meeting ended with solid comfort, and in the afternoon we had an agreeable ride home.
15th of the 10th month.--I was invited to attend the funeral of Isaac Smith's son. He died of a fever that has been prevailing in Chester county, and has taken off several blooming young persons. A large company of young people and others came together on this solemn occasion, and attending the meeting at London Grove. In this meeting, my mind was seriously impressed with the remembrance of that scripture testimony which states that all have sinned and fallen short of the testimony of the glory of God. I observed to the meeting, that I had no doubt this was a true testimony confirmed by the witness for God in every breast. It was therefore necessary that we should endeavor to have the burden of this condemnation removed before we go hence and are seen of men no more. A merciful God has provided the way and means of our deliverance from this burden, if we are willing to embrace the terms. He has declared by his prophet, that if we cease to do evil, and learn to do well,--though our sins have been of a deep dye, yet he will remove them, and love us freely. It was an opportunity to be remembered, and I returned home with the reward of peace.
On the 20th of the loth month, 1841, I set out to attend Baltimore Yearly Meeting. On my way thither, I was at Deer Creek meeting, and we were favored with a comfortable solemnity. I was led to point out the necessity of being faithful to the Divine gift; and to show that in consequence of the unfaithfulness of some, the church was deprived of its dues. I saw that it was possible, when the day of account should come, to be in a state wherein the change would be made, that "I was an hungered, and ye gave me no meat; I was thirsty, and ye gave me no drink," &c. The testimony appeared to make a deep and serious impression, and I was glad I had been with them. We lodged at John Jewett's; and next day rode to Baltimore. It was very comfortable to meet a number of valuable Friends, and I rejoiced to feel the prevalence of brotherly love among them.
While there, I felt an engagement to appoint a meeting in Lombard street house, at the west end of the city. It was a large meeting, in which the pure light and power of the gospel was livingly felt to be in dominion; and it might be said to be a memorable meeting. I had also a meeting appointed at the east end of the city, wherein I felt the power of truth to qualify for the service and an important testimony was delivered. But the meeting appeared to be injured by communications that were considered as improper additions.
I attended most of the sittings of the Yearly Meeting, in which Friends were much favored with a precious covering of solemnity. Among the subjects brought before them was a proposal from one of the quarters to do away their tenth, query. This case drew forth some instructive remarks on the danger of indulging in the society a disposition to be making changes, where no real necessity or advantage may require such a measure. Daring the time devoted to a consideration of this subject the minds of many Friends were profitably turned to reflect on the consequences which might justly be feared as the result of this changeable disposition. Some of the changes which have already been made, were adverted to; and it appears probable that in regard to some of them, Friends may yet see that it will be better to return to the old ground. This was held up to view in relation to that change of discipline which refers to the appointment of elders periodically. It is seriously doubted whether this alteration in regard to appointing elders has not been a loss to society much greater than any benefit that has yet arisen from the change.
In my best judgment upon the subject, I have never been, prepared to unite with this measure; because I believe that no one can rightly be an elder in the church but such as are divinely gifted for the service. Now when the gifts of such are acknowledged by their being appointed to the station, to remove such from the service, or to limit the period of their standing in the office of elders, must be a loss, and no profit either to themselves or to the meetings. It produces unsettlement, and frequently consequences that tend to weaken the bonds of society.
On the 20th of the 8th month, 1842, I went in company with Joseph S. Walton, on a visit to some of the meetings of Friends in Abington and Bucks Quarters. Next day we attended Darby meeting, which was a solemn opportunity; one in which I was favored to discharge my duty by delivering among them a plain testimony;--showing that all were blessed with the gift of the Divine Spirit, which was our all sufficient teacher,--and that the nearer we kept to this guide, the more certain we should be of the perfection or its testimony. In the evening I attended a meeting appointed at Spruce street, Philadelphia; which though a season of favor to many, was very trying to my own mind.
Next day, we rode to Frankford, and had an evening meeting there. It was an opportunity in which I felt the power and light of Truth to be over all, and have abundant cause reverently to admire the mercy and goodness of God, in furnishing the necessary qualification to fulfil the service to which I was called, and by which the assembly were baptized into a state of great solemnity.
23d.--We went on to Samuel Comfort's, at the Falls, Bucks county, and next day attended the Quarterly Meeting of Ministers and Elders held there. In this meeting my mind was deeply exercised in support of our Christian testimony to the reality of the manifestation of the spirit of God in man, given to him as his all-sufficient guide from earth to heaven. It was, I thought, a profitable opportunity. The Quarterly Meeting for business next day, was a very trying time. The ministry was in the mixture, and there was a clashing and opposition manifested between two classes present. I felt best satisfied to remain silent. But it was clear to me that Friends will have to maintain the discipline by taking a decided stand against everything of the kind.
After the Quarterly Meeting was over, we went to Newtown, and put up with Joseph Briggs. On sixth day, the 26th, I had a meeting at Doylestown, and next day one at Plumstead. Then rode to John Watson's, at Buckingham, and attended a large and satisfactory meeting there. After having a meeting at Wrightstown on 2d day, the 29th of 8th month, we went by way of Newtown to Byberry, and were at the monthly meeting held there on 3d day. We next had an appointed meeting at Horsham, on fifth day the 1st of 9th month. Next day we rested at Joseph Foulke's and the day following had a meeting at Abington, which was large.
In the fall: of the year 1844, in company with my valued friend, Joseph S. Walton, I visited the: following named meetings: first, Huntington; next had a meeting at Petersburg, and then attended the Quarterly Meeting held at Huntington. Thence to Monallen, Pipe Creek,. New Market, and Sandy Spring, Thence we went to Gunpowder, and attended Baltimore Quarterly Meeting held at that place. Thence to Little Falls, the Forrest, Fawn, and Broad Creek meetings. We then crossed the Susquehanna river. and were at Little Britain meeting, and thence home.
After being at home a short time, I again attended Baltimore Yearly Meeting, and had two appointed meetings after it concluded, both of which were satisfactory seasons. It is cause of humble gratitude that He that was my morning Light, has now in the evening of life given me strength to fulfil his will in the labors of the gospel.
1845, 20th of 2d month.--Having felt in my retired situation repeated evidences that Divine mercy has condescended to crown the evening of my life with the overflowings of his love, my mind has been led to consider the present state of the world, and to reflect upon what may be the probable events that may be expected to take place. From the present appearance of things there is much that goes to prove that the confidence of men in men is very much wanting. Hence there is reason to believe that great degrees of strife and contention will follow, the harmony and peace in families and neighborhoods be broken, and our country may be far removed from the quiet and happy condition that was enjoyed in the early settlement of it. It seems to me, that in a political point of view, the state we are in is a very unhappy one; divided into a number of parties, and much unkind feeling prevailing with many, which must have the effect of alienating the affections of one another, and hardening the heart. The various societies and associations that are formed for promoting particular objects, have too generally indulged a disposition to reflect on others who do not join with them, that they are quite as likely to do harm as good.
According to the observations I have made, and the views I have, I cannot believe that the world will be reformed by any other spirit than the peaceable spirit of the gospel of Christ. I am therefore a firm believer in his doctrine, Now he has said, "Whosoever gathereth not with me, scattereth abroad." Therefore, unless the minds of those who profess to be reformers are kept under the government of the heavenly gift of the Spirit of God, they will fail to improve the human family.
We have many persons going about our country, who are lecturing on various subjects; some on temperance, some on slavery, some on the doctrine of the peaceable spirit of Christ, &c. If those lecturers were under the solemn feelings of religious duty thus en, gaged, we might in that case expect some happy effects. But there is much reason to believe that many of them are acting from no higher or better motive than to have an employment of some degree of respectability, and to acquire applause, or pecuniary gain. These facts go to prove that their motives and their labors are very doubtful.
The subject of temperance is doubtless one of great value to mankind. It has for many years engaged the attention of the Society of Friends. When they became concerned to notice the use of distilled liquors in a society capacity, the article was common in nearly every family, and it was a general practice to have spirituous liquors in harvest fields. Very few farmers thought of gathering their hay and harvest without getting a quantity of spirits for daily use. It was also a very common practice to have a dram in the morning, almost the year through. The case is now very different. We seldom meet with it in any Friend's house: There is no necessity for Friends to be joining temperance societies. For the society of Friends is in itself a temperance society, on the principles of Christianity.
As to the subject of slavery--every man who has any just views of that subject, must be satisfied that it is a very great evil in our country,--and of course, must be desirous that the country should get clear of it without delay. But as it exists to a large amount, particularly in the Southern States, it will require some time, before it can be removed: and it is possible that by pressing the concern too hard, the evil may be prolonged, instead of hastening the period of final termination. Taking a view of the state of the public mind, and comparing it with the means pursued by many for putting an end to slavery, there is some reason to fear, that they may result in a dreadful revolution. To my mind it is a clear case, that every cause must produce its own effect. If therefore, the public mind should become violently agitated by the parties opposed to each other, the danger might be that it might bring about a state of war and tumult.
4th month, 1845,--The circumstances of Friends as a religious society are such as to occasion many trials to a sincerely devoted mind. Instead of knowing our dependence to be placed on the government of the Divine Spirit, and waiting in all our proceedings for the renewed openings and light of Christ, our holy Head, we too much depend on the powers of the human mind as men and creatures; and hence there is a lack of that deep and inward feeling after the mind of truth, which is necessary in order to come to a true judgment, in concerns that are brought before us; and thus, the animal nature takes the lead. The mind becomes separated from the spiritual life, and darkness is felt to spread over our meetings. Hence, there is not that unity and harmony in society, which was formerly experienced; nor are the proceedings and conclusions of society marked with the weight and clearness that once prevailed.
But notwithstanding these evidences of weakness and dereliction of principle in too many, there are still preserved some living members in our meetings generally. There is therefore ground to hope that Zion may yet arise and shake herself not only from the dust of the earth, but from all defilements of flesh and spirit, and come forward in her original dignity and beauty, clothed with the sun and the moon under her feet, and a crown of twelve stars upon her head.
In considering the present state of society, I have had my attention turned to look at the causes which have contributed to its decline from the ground it once occupied. Among these causes this view has presented: Formerly, in the institution of our meetings for discipline, those members only were permitted a seat in them who were of orderly life and conversation, and who had a religious concern for the maintenance of our Christian testimonies,--all others were excluded as not being suitable to compose meetings for discipline. These meetings being thus composed of solid, exemplary and experienced Friends, were the means of rendering them useful and preserving them in a state of greater solemnity and feeling after the mind of Truth in all their proceedings and conclusions. The unity and harmony of society was thus promoted and maintained,--the health, the welfare, and the preservation of the body, were the objects of the godly care of the elders and livingly concerned members of the church.
It may readily be conceived that when Yearly, Quarterly, and Monthly Meetings, were composed of this description of members only, that they were very different both in their character and effects, froth our present meetings of discipline. Now it appears to me that the time is at hand for the society of Friends to return to its first principles in relation to these institutions. It is time for rightly-concerned Friends to seek after the mind of Truth, in regard to the maintenance of order, and the exercise of Christian discipline, on the original ground that George Fox moved on in the setting up of meetings for the discipline of the church.
On the 9th of the 9th month, 1845, I mentioned to our Monthly Meeting, that my mind was impressed, for the first time in my life, with a concern to make a visit to the families of Friends, and, in this ease it was to Friends of Kennett Monthly Meeting. The concern was considered and fully united with.
On first day, the 14th, I attended Marlborough meeting. During this opportunity my mind was brought into a feeling sense of the dependant state of man; and I could see clearly that of ourselves we can do-nothing. After meeting I went home with William Barnard, and after dinner we proceeded together in the proposed family visit, and had religious opportunities in four families.
Thence we continued from day to day to prosecute the concern, and I felt
my way open to offer such remarks and communicate such matter for the
consideration of those whom we visited, as were from time to time famished
me. I also attended the regular meetings as they came in course, and they
were instructive opportunities.
THE END OF THE NARRATIVE.