The Missing Cross to Purity


WILLIAM EDMUNDSON

The Irish Hammer

Is not my word like as a fire? saith the LORD;
and like a hammer that breaketh the rock in pieces?

Jer 23:29



I was born at Little Musgrove in Westmorland, in the North of England, in the year 1627; my father and mother's names were John and Grace Edmundson. My father was well accounted of among men who knew him, and religious in what he knew. I was the youngest child of six my parents had. My mother died when I was about four years old, my father also when I was about eight years old. We were left in the care of my uncle, my mother's brother, who used us harshly, and my brothers and sisters left him, but I stayed with him several years, being young. My eldest brother, who was heir to the estate my father left, when he came to the age of twenty-one years, with my eldest sister's husband, went to court against my uncle about our inheritances, and other injuries and wrongs; and they spent a lot of money doing so. I was bound as an apprentice in York, to the trade of a carpenter and joiner, where I lived for a number of years, in which time the Lord began to work in the hearts of many people in that city, so that great openings in the things of God occurred both in preachers and their listeners. Then the Lord began to visit me with his judgments and to set my sins before me; many times I was under great exercises concerning my salvation, as well as regarding election and reprobation. Many things weighed so heavily in my mind about religion that I was often brought very low in my spirit; and at public worship in the steeple-house, at times, the Lord's judgments would seize upon me heavily. One time, in the public worship, the hand of the Lord was so upon me, that I shed such abundance of tears in weeping and bewailing my wretched state, that the priest and congregation took notice of me; but none did direct me aright to the physician that could heal my wounded spirit.

About this time I went into the Parliament's army,* and there continued part of the war between the King and Parliament; and when that was over I went into Scotland under Oliver Cromwell in the year 1650, and the Lord began afresh with me, and many times his heavy judgments would seize upon me and bring me low in a consideration of the state of life I lived in, and what the end would be; and sometimes his mercies would spring in my heart to my great refreshment, and cause tears of joy and gladness; but I knew not the secret hand that was dealing with me, neither met I with any that did inform me, although in the army we had many high professors of religion. And sometimes when I had been on service most of the day, and was lying down in my tent at night, then would arise in my mind the eminent dangers I had passed that day, and the narrow escapes my life had, and what would have become of my soul, if I had fallen in that uncertainty of my future happiness, with resolutions to turn to the Lord by repentance and amendment of life; but when action presented, which I was active in at that time, I got over it again in my vanity.

*The English legislative body, Parliament, was composed of Puritans. King Charles was Episcopalian. They conflicted on who had power to do what, which led to a bloody English Civil War. The army of Parliament Puritans against the army supporting the King, Royalists. The Puritans had a basic dislike for the pomp and formality of the King and his Anglican church.

In the year 1651, the Scotch army marched for England, we followed and engaged them at Worcester, and overthrew their army; after the fight I was troubled in mind for my vanity, for the Lord preserved my life still; but I fled from judgment, and made merry over God's witness in my conscience, which testified against me. From there we were commanded to the Isle of Man, which was delivered to us, and in two weeks time returned to England, and quartered in Derbyshire, at Chesterfield and towns thereabout. The common discourse of all sorts of people was now about the Quakers, and various reports were of them; the priests everywhere were angry against them, and the baser sort of people were eager to tell strange stories of them; but the more I heard of them, the more I loved them, though I had yet to have the opportunity to speak with any of them.

One market-day at Chesterfield, I was in a tavern with several of my companions, and two women of the people called Quakers spoke of the things of God to the people in the market; I did not hear of them until they had gone, but the priest of the town, and several with him, abused them. When they had done, they came to the tavern, into the room where I and my companions were, it was a large dining-room, where the priest boasted of what he had done to the two women, thinking we would praise him; but I loved to hear of the women, and hated his behavior towards them.

A young man, a merchant, then present, who was frequently my companion, would often speak of the people called Quakers, and say their principles were the truth. He heard the priest boast of his abusive behavior to the said two women, answered and said, 'It was a poor victory he had gotten over two poor women;' at which the priest was very angry, and began to storm. My spirit rose against him, I started up from my seat, and asked the priest and them with him, 'if they came to quarrel?' I said, 'if they did, they should have enough;' but the priest answered, 'No, not with you sir.' I told them to leave the room, which they soon did; but these things were important to me; and the more I heard of this people, the more I loved them, and earnest desires sprung afresh, that the Lord would show me the way of truth.

After some time spent in several exercises, we marched again towards Scotland, at which time I was in charge of some men for recruiting other companies then in Scotland. I marched them with our regiment and delivered the men in Scotland. Then I left the army, came back to England, and visited my relatives in the North. From there I rode into Derbyshire, and married a young woman, with whom I was engaged before. After some time I was about to settle in Derbyshire, as a shopkeeper; at which time my brother, who was a soldier in Ireland, came into England to see his relatives. He highly recommended Ireland, persuading me to go there and live, which I and my wife decided to do. The troop in which my brother served was quartered near Waterford. We proposed to settle as traders of merchandize in Waterford, and to live at a place two miles from there, where we could pass and return in our boat. We expected a profitable life to ourselves, while still being able to pursue religion. So when my brother returned to Ireland, I sent with him a little parcel of merchant goods; and not long afterwards, my wife and I with a servant went to Ireland, with a larger quantity of merchant goods. We came through Westmorland to say goodbye to our relatives, and some of them went with us to Whitehaven, where we took passage on a ship that landed at Dublin.

Now all our great promises came to nothing, and the Lord, who had been often striving with me both in mercy and judgment, had other service for me, which I knew not of, and was a mere stranger to. For at Dublin I expected that my brother had already made some preparations for us and our trade, but instead, the troop and he with it were marched into the North. I wrote to him, and gave him an account that we had landed; in the meantime I was strongly inclined to settle in Dublin; trading was then very brisk, and houses on easy terms because it was not long after the plague; but I was prevented by a secret hand that I did not then know, which preserved me from the deceitfulness of riches, which according to all probability I should have been laden with, as with thick clay, and thereby been hindered from the Lord's service as some others are.

When my brother received my letter, he came to Dublin, with horses to take us into the North to Antrim, where their troop was to quarter. I took a house there, and my brother dwelled with me. The officers of the troop were very kind. They wished me ride in the troop, and receive constant pay, while still able to follow my own business in a duty free status; for they would issue an order on their own account, none being then admitted into troops without the general's order; but I refused, and would not accept of their kind offers; for my inclinations were after religion, and my conscience began to be awakened by the Lord's hand of judgment mixed with mercy, which preserved me.

I soon sold those goods I brought over, and quickly left for England to buy more. I went into the North of England among my relatives, at which time George Fox and James Naylor were in that country. Since James Naylor was having a meeting about three miles from the place where I was, I went to it with my eldest brother, Thomas, and another kinsman. I had an earnest desire to converse with some of those people, retaining a love for, and believing well of them, from hearing the first the report of them. I was glad of this opportunity, and we were all three convinced of the Lord's blessed truth; for God's witness in our hearts answered to the truth of what was spoken, and the Lord's former dealings with me came fresh into my remembrance. Then I knew it was the Lord's hand that had been striving with me for a long time. This was in the year 1653.

Then my understanding began to be opened, and many scriptures were brought to my remembrance, which I had often read, yet not understood them; but now being turned to a measure of the Lord's Spirit manifested in my heart, which often had reproved me for evil in my ignorance, I knew it was the truth which led into all truth, agreeable to the Holy scriptures of the law and prophets, Christ and his apostles; and I thought any, who heard it declared, would accept it as true, it was so plain to me. A few days after I was thus far convinced of the blessed truth, the Lord's power seized upon me through his Spirit, by which I was brought under great exercises of mind and spirit. All my parts came under this exercise, for the Lord's hand was mighty upon me, in judgments mixed with mercies; so that my former ways were hedged up. But I loved the Lord's judgments, for I knew I had sinned against him, and must be purged through judgment. And though I was under this exercise of conscience towards God, I still did my business in England, and shipped my goods to be landed at Carrickfergus or Belfast.

Reciting several difficult exercises he went through,
both inwardly and outwardly, between his convincement
and the setting up of a public meeting at Lurgan.

While I was at sea, I strongly rationalized to save the duty of my goods, for I had an opportunity to do it. The troop my brother belonged to, quartering at Carrickfergus and Belfast, would have helped me night or day; but I dared not do it, my conscience having been awakened to plead for truth, justice and equity. Yet there was a great contest between conscience and self, and in this conflict many scriptures were opened in my understanding, that duties and customs ought to be paid; and though self struggled hard for mastery, yet at last was overthrown, and the judgment of truth prevailed.

When I landed at Carrickfergus, a trooper readily lent me his horse there, and I rode that evening home to Antrim, where my wife lived. When I came to the door, my brother came out to salute me with his usual compliments; but the Lord's power so seized upon me at that instant that he was struck amazed. We went inside and sat down silently. I was very broken in the power of the Lord before them, and my brother made no opposition, but received the truth and joined with it.

I returned to Carrickfergus to bring my goods ashore, but the officers required an oath to the truth of my bills of parcels, and, not allowing them to come ashore without it, would have seized my goods. I told them, I could not swear, it was contrary to Christ's command, which seemed a strange thing to them, having not met with the like before; but the Lord's truth and testimony was precious to me, and after some time, with much difficulty, I got an order to bring my goods to the custom-house. My conduct to the officers and others here was a wonder to them, and caused much discussion, and various rumors to be spread of the Quakers, and of me in particular.

After I came home with my goods, the Lord's hand was heavy upon me day and night, so that I travailed under a great war and conflict between flesh and spirit, and was very cast down with sorrows and troubles of mind. but no one there understood the cause of my sorrows and troubles, or gave a word of comfort to ease me. I would have traveled far for the company of an experienced Friend. My sleep departed from me, and many times in the night, in great trouble of mind, crying and weeping I wished for day, and when day came, my sorrows remaining, I wished again for night. In this restless state I had none that had trod this path to converse with; so that the rumor of my condition spread abroad among the professors; many would come to gaze on me, jangle* and contend against truth, and some would say, I was bewitched; others, I was going mad. So talk and rumor concerning me spread a great way among people.

*To jangle is to dispute with superficial doctrinal arguments, such as, his needing to be water baptised as a solution. Or telling him, there is no point in his suffering, Christ had already suffered for him.

About this time one Miles Bousfield came from England to Ireland, whose house George Fox had visited; he had been in some degree convinced of the truth, and came away with it. He was a great talker of religion, but an enemy and a stranger to the cross of Christ, who hearing of me, and of the exercise I was in, came to see me. I was not at home when he came, but he talked to my wife, and spoke well of the Quakers and their principles, seeming to be very glad that he had found such a companion as I was, in this nation, and the comfort we should have of one another.

When I came home, my wife told me of his having been there, and the discourse he had with her, which I was glad to hear of, and soon took my horse and rode twelve miles to see him, and stayed with him all night. He talked an abundance about religion, and of the inward work of God in man by his Spirit, and spoke well of George Fox and James Naylor, and of their doctrine, which I liked well; but said, he knew those things before he saw or heard them; and spoke much of his knowledge of God and Christ. I sat in silence with attention to hear him; for I was cast down, poor and low in my spirit, yet glad that I had met with such a knowing man in the things of God, and his work in man by his Spirit, to advise me in my great troubles of a wounded spirit. So he advised me to be cheerful and merry, and not to look at those inward troubles that bowed me down; which was the enemy's work to lead me into despair, and destroy me, by swallowing me up in much trouble; and as it was plainly manifest, that God had a love for me, to make me a chosen vessel of mercy, he would love me to the end; and nothing in me could hinder his love, or frustrate his will.

This doctrine of his claimed to be able to heal me without the cross of Christ, or self-denial; which appealed to my will and carnal desires for I loved the truth which I was convinced of, and would have had it, together with my carnalities, fleshly liberties, worldly pleasures and profits. So when the Lord's power would rise to bow me down under his cross, I would reason against it with those arguments before mentioned, by which I would escape judgment. But this ease and slight healing lasted only about a week for the Lord would not leave me so, praised be his name forever; whose merciful hand preserved me, and power took fresh hold of my heart and inward parts, which bowed me under his judgments, and opened the eye of my understanding, plainly showing me what was alive in me and opposed the will of God and must therefore be crucified.

Then I saw where Bousfield was, and all of his spirit, and the wounds of my restless spirit were opened wider than before, and Major Bousfield's slight cure was all marred, and the false rest he set me in taken away. I had none now to trust to but the Lord, for counsel and information, whose care was greatly manifested for my preservation, redemption, and information, through many temptations and deep afflictions that affected me many ways, with many opposers and contenders. I was weak, but the Lord's strength was perfect in weakness, and his spirit and power increased in me through obedience to the cross of Christ, in which I was daily exercised, and by which grew into acquaintance with the Lord's work, to make me a vessel for his purpose.

In the following spring, I moved with my family from Antrim, to live in the county of Armagh. There I acquired a house and grazing for my cattle, and kept a shop of some merchant goods, where I became the talk and gazing stock of the people; professors [stated believers in Christ and the scriptures] watched me closely, to get something against me and the principles of truth that I professed, but the Lord strengthened me in my watch over my words and deeds, and so cut off the opportunity for them to discredit the truth and me.

In those days, to use the true, plain and proper speech, as thee and thou to a single person, and keeping on the hat, were strange things to people, and few could allow them to be used on occasion; but would reflect in abusive words, and sometimes use blows, or throw stones. Having one price for everyone in selling goods,* and holding to the first asking price without wavering, was a great stumbling-block to most sorts of people, and made them stand at a distance from buying for some time, until they saw further into the justice of the manner thereof. All things were rough and rugged in the world, and the cross of Christ was foolishness, and a stumbling-block to them.

*This is a forgotten benefit that we all enjoy. Pricing for everything, including clothes and food, was negotiated or haggled. The Quakers, following the command of James, to show partiality to no man, had one price for everyone; though strange at first, the fairness of this pricing was recognized and became the standard for western society. We have the Quakers to thank for not having to haggle with everything, which the purchase of a car still demands.

My exercises and trials both within and without were many, and of several sorts, beyond what I can express. The Lord's judgments came close to me. I was made to love them, and I was willing to wait upon the Lord in the ways of him. Sometimes when the Lord's hand would be easy with me, I would be afraid for fear that he should withdraw his hand; then my desires were to the Lord not to slacken his hand, but to search me thoroughly; for his judgments had become sweet to my taste, which he many times mixed with springs of mercy, to my joy and comfort. Business and the affairs of the world became a trouble to me, though there were presentations and opportunities to get riches, either by trading, taking land by lease, mortgage or purchase, which I could have done.

My brother was convinced of the truth, as before, was my wife. He and I met together twice a week at my house; somtime after, four more were convinced, and then we were seven that met together to wait upon God, and to worship him in spirit and truth. The Lord's mercy and goodness were often extended to us to our comfort, and confirmation in the appearance of his blessed truth received in our hearts.

Of his first public ministry, his visit to George Fox in England,

the settling of a meeting in Dublin, his imprisonment at Armagh,

and dispute with a priest and a justice of the county, etc.

SOME time after this, John Tiffin was moved of the Lord to come into Ireland in truth's service. He came to my house, stayed a while, and sat with us in our meetings, sometimes speaking a few words, which were edifying. Then a concern began to come upon me to travel with him to some places, though he had but few words, yet very serviceable. Our going abroad to fairs and places of concourse of people put many to inquire into the Quaker's principles and religion; and sometimes we had discourses with professors, but people in general were very shy and fearful of us, for fear that they should be deceived; for the priests persuaded the people against us, by telling them stories and lies, which the priests in England had forged and sent abroad, too many to mention here, neither is it needful, being printed in several books with Friends' answers to them.

At this time only a few would lodge us in their houses. At Belfast, that town of great profession, there was only one of all the inns and public houses that would lodge any of our Friends, which was one Widow Partridge who kept a public house, and received us very kindly. John Tiffin lodged there, often endeavoring to get an entrance for truth in that town, but they resisted, shutting their ears, doors and hearts against it.

Near this town there dwelled one named Laythes, who promised to let us meet in his house, and the day was appointed; accordingly we came there, but the man was gone from his home, as they said. We supposed on purpose, that we might not meet at his house. His wife was a proud woman, and would not allow us to meet there. A little ways from that house in the great road, three lanes' ends that met; there we three sat down and kept our meeting. When people came around us, we were a wonder to them, and something was spoken to direct their minds to God's Spirit in their own hearts. These exercises, though in much weakness and fear, spread the name and fame of truth, and the minds of many honest people began to inquire after it; and to see the reports that the priests had told them of us, were false, which made them more desirous to hear us, and some were added to our meeting at Lurgan, then kept at my house.

Soon after John Tiffin went to England, but our meeting increased, and sometimes the Lord's power and Spirit would move in me, to speak some few words in meetings; which I did in fear, being under a great concern, for fear that a wrong spirit should get entrance, and deceive me in the likeness of an angel of light; for I was sensible of my own weakness. Now several gathered to our meeting, and were convinced and received the truth. So we established meetings in several places, there being a great openness among people.

About this time I had some drawings on my spirit, to go for England and to see George Fox, whom I had not yet seen. So I went over, and met with him at Badgley, in Leicestershire, where there was a great meeting of Friends from several places. When the meeting ended I went to George Fox, and he took notice of me; we went into the orchard, and kneeling down he prayed; the Lord's heavenly power and presence were there; he was tender over me. I told him where I lived, of several being convinced in Ireland, of the openness among people, in the North of that nation, to hear the truth declared, and of the want of ministering Friends in the Gospel there: he wrote the following epistle to Friends, which he sent with me; namely,

Friends, In that which convinced you, wait, that you may have that removed you are convinced of; and all, my dear Friends, dwell in the life, and love, and power and wisdom of God, in unity one with another and with God; and the peace and wisdom of God fill all your hearts, that nothing may rule in you but the life, which stands in the Lord God.

George Fox

He told me, when I came to Ireland, to go to Edward Burrough and Francis Howgill, for they had gone into the South of that kingdom in the service of truth. So, when I had been at Swarthmore and some other places in England to visit Friends, I returned to Ireland, and read the before mentioned epistle to Friends in the meeting; there the power of the Lord seized on us, by which we were mightily shaken and broken into tears and weeping. Now the priests and professors in the South of Ireland, were so envious against truth, that they got an order from Henry Cromwell, then Lord Deputy of Ireland, to banish Edward Burrough and Francis Howgill out of the nation, and a guard of soldiers were ordered to conduct them from place to place, until they were shipped off; but the guards were loving to them, and allowed them to have meetings wherever they went; so that several received the truth, and small meetings were settled in several places, particularly one in Dublin.

About this time Richard Clayton was moved of the Lord to come to Ireland, in the service of the Gospel. He came by the Lord's directions straight to my house, as he himself told me, and stayed with us for some meetings. He was then moved of the Lord to travel to Colerain and Londonderry. I also was moved to go with him. He published the day of the Lord in Colerain in the street, warning all to repent. We put up several little papers, which we had written, in several places, one we put on the worship house door; but the professors were highly offended, took and banished us over the water, giving charge that no boat should bring us back. So we traveled the road towards Londonderry, lodging that night in a cabin in the mountains. The next day we came to Londonderry, we traveled on foot, and had two meetings there, where several received the truth. The governor was at one meeting, where he was convinced, confessing it to be truth that we declared, and while we stayed he was very loving.

So began the long and successful ministry of Willima Edmundson.

This web site's purpose is to show how to become
free from sin
by benefiting from the changing power of God through the cross,
which leads to union with God in his Kingdom.

 


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