A PREVIOUSLY UNPUBLISHED LETTER FROM JESSE KERSEY TO HALLIDAY JACKSON, 22ND OF 6TH MONTH, 1827.
Transcribed from the Original Document at the Friends' Historical Library, Swarthmore College, Swarthmore, PA.
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West Chester 22 of 6 mo. 1827
Dear Friend Halliday Jackson
Thy kind letter inclosing two [?] sets of queries has come to hand. Hitherto I have not seen a way to take any steps for the promotion of the object which friends have in view . Birmingham [?] Monthly Meeting is composed of those [?] of two preparatives. That at West Chester I believe has a considerable majority of Friends But Birmingham is in thought are nearly divided. My situation has involved us in some difficulty having never had a certificate to unite me to them or to the Quarterly Meeting of Concord. I understand too that Cheney Jeffries has been endeavoring in the select preparative meeting to have me ordered to be silent. But on that subject they are not yet united. Under such circumstances I feel my own trials and should be glad to act the part which may most contribute to the advancement of the great cause. This man I find has became quite hostile and is using his influence to do me all the injury in his power and that without any provocation given on my part first. Were I so disposed I believe I could produce evidence sufficient to convict him of spreading false reports upon my character and also of trying to turn away from my office business that would otherwise have come into my hand. To continue to assemble with such beings and where they have the rule for the great purpose of performing unacceptable worship to the Almighty is an asbsurdity and it is clear to me that the sooner we are separated the better I shall therefore be attentive to this concern and make some move for the purpose of seeing how we stand as early as it can be done to advantage. I was at the conference with some you committees at Kennett. The opportunity was attended with much solemnity and the minds of Friends present united in the belief that something was necessary to be done. Most ofthe members present were prepared to forward a request to the monthly and quarterly meeting to appoint representatives to the Yearly Meeting to be held in the 10th month next. Some seemed not so clear as on the subject as others and I could see that it was because they had not felt the yoke of tyranny which others have been suffering under. I was never more fully convinced than when in the company that men are beings that will only learn through suffering. The work however is going on and the steps which have been taken by our friends I have no doubt have been opened by the great head of the Church. The company which may be confidently expected to meet in the 10th month will no doubt be large. After one Yearly Meeting shall have been held and the great body of the society are brought to see and to feel the solemnity and the dignity of the meeting those who are friends in principle having a way opened before them and find all things going on in love and harmony will not be willing to remain behind and all they who are not disposed after that time to untied the themselves with the body may be left to their own selves and opinions. As to a certificate from Philadelphia I do not look for it and am concerned that there will be none granted to me by the 12th street meeting as I do not think that I shall have it in my power to attend the monthly meeting at Darby at the time of your next meeting. If my friends there can feel free to recognize me as a member I shall be thankful for the privilege and should the way open to mention in the meeting my request I wish thee to do so. It would under the present circumstances of Birmingham Monthly Meeting be useless to mention the case in it. Thou will therefore understand that I have at present no hope of belonging to the Society of Friends unless your meeting should be willing to receive me. If a general meeting of Friends belonging to Concord Quarter should be agreed upon I shall be glad to be informed both the time and the place--this thou may easily do by putting a letter in the mail at Darby. When I reflect upon the time of life I am in and consider the state of my constitution and the situation I am placed in I confess it has a powerful effect and sometimes. I am ready to fear that I may yet fall sort of filling up the portion of duty due to the cause But in one thing I sometimes repose my tribulated mind and that is that I am not to answer for the words of other men. If I am kept back by others and must remain in the secret corners of the earth the Lord not lay this to my charge . But I have faith to believe that the Great Shepherd of the Sheep will yet graciously condescend to prove that he still puts forth his own. That he goes before them and convinces themselves and others that they shall enjoy Eternal Life. When I look over the society and take into view the multitude of young Friends that are growing up in it and consider how few there are who seem to be prepared to minister instruction to them or to meet in their various and important inquiries I confess the prospect fills my mind with awful concern and I am indeed convinced that the harvest is plenteous and the laborers are few. Hence desires are raised to the great Lord of the Harvest that the day may be hastened when the glorious Light of Truth may shine with convincing face upon the whole human race. But as is has always consisted with the ways of Infinite Wisdom to employ servants and handmaids in his work are to expect that Instruments will be prepared for his work, it seems to me almost self evident that the turning and overturning which has taken place in our day among Friends is the work of the Divine Hand as he has been pleased to make use of us a people to go before and open a testimony to the Spirituality of his Worship his kingdom and his government. And as from a long time of care and prosperity as have become clouded formal and lost to the great end to be answered by us. Having gradually increased in a dependance upon the letter and prided ourselves in the vast power and effect of our discipline We have therefore been suffered to break our into open variance and to prove to ourselves that we cannot by any system however sublime by kept together.
I now hope that the day is near if not really come when every external dependance shall be seen to be in vain. When the servants of the Gospel may preach that Gospel that stands not in the word but in the power of God and the wisdom of God. At present many clear openings into the nature of man and the stand which God has given him in his universal creation and hardly be asserted without coming in contact with the supposed doctrines of the Scripture. And even the scriptures themselves must be worshiped as an idol rather than considered as an imperfect instrument. How many are the who would consider it a crime to take away from them the title of Holy when the pure and unprejudiced mind must see that there is nothing in them or about them that can justly place them on that standing. The Scriptures while they are spoken of by the formal Quakers as the source of information are known by other to have been written by men of like passions and prejudices with ourselves and therefore when at any time those writers were under the influence of the Spirit and had the understanding opened into particular subjects they would be liable to give to those subjects their presentations that would accord with their own preconceived opinions. They would necessary have some of the [torn, illegible] which belonged to the imperfections of the writer. To lace the Book knowing as we do that it must have been written by man upon the high ground of Holy Divine is t do it more harm than good. The times I have no doubt will come when things that are contained in it will be judged of with the same freedom that we now judge the sentiments we hear from one another. How frequently the writers of these pages tell us of the wrath of God and of his employing the same passions and feelings that belong to an irregular and imperfect being--But the day perhaps has not fully come when even such ideas as the forgoing can be tolerated. He shall live and die in the faith that as the Spirit is preferred to the letter and men are made subject to its government those honest inquiries of the mind will be cherished which go to detect error and superstition and the blessed and unchangeable truth shine forth with unclouded brightness opening the understanding and correcting the understanding the errors of mankind to such as extent that Truth and Truth only shall reign over all. With concerned feelings of fellowship in this precious and unchangeable principle I am thy friend