A JOURNAL OF THE LIFE THAT ANCIENT SERVANT OF CHRIST,
Many shall run to and fro, and knowledge shall be increased.
Site Editor's Preface
John Gratton (1641-1711) was an early Quaker who had never heard any of the giants of the movement. He was convinced by the Lord's word (voice) and light of the true way. As he searched for Truth, he discovered the hypocrisy of the Congregationalist Puritans, the Presbyterians, the Episcopalians, and the Baptists. He had great knowledge of the Bible, and he had been extensively taught by the Lord. He begged for God to lead him to a true group of believers. The Quakers were greatly despised by most in that day, and when visiting them, at first he also rejected them. Continuing to beg the Lord to show him God's true people, he had to be persuaded by the Voice of the Lord that the Quakers, despite their ill repute by the area's general population, were truly the people of God. So he joined them, to his great joy, and to the completion of his journey to the Kingdom of Heaven.
In a short time, he became a traveling minister, convincing* hundreds of the Truth; who then began to work out their salvation to later experience. He spoke and wrote with simplicity, great scriptural proof, clear logic, and great power - he spoke with so much power that arresting officers were often turned back or silenced to attentiveness, instead of persecution. But like thousands of other early Quakers, he was stoned, beaten, and imprisoned for his ministry, failure to attend state approved services, and attending Quakers meetings. For all those determined to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution, 2 Tim 3:12. Despite his long imprisonment, his devoted Quaker wife continued his trade, providing an income for their family, with the Lord's blessing.
The source of this text is Friends Library, Volume IX, 1845. I have modernized the language and rewritten some sentences to reflect current grammar and word usage, using an 1828 dictionary to substitute obsolete words; but I have not changed the meaning in any way.
John Gratton brings a fresh perspective to the issues championed throughout these web pages by others of the early Quakers. John was one of the Lord's true worthies, and his record offers us the hope and inspiration to continue on our pilgrimage to union with God and Christ in the Kingdom of Heaven, through the inward cross of self-denial.
John Whiting's Testimony concerning JOHN GRATTON
LOVE to the precious Truth which I received in my early days, and embraced as my greatest joy, and which is dearer to me than all that this world can afford, has made me love the messengers and ministers of it, and their testimony for its sake. Our dear friend, John Gratton, was not the least of these, being one of the Lord's worthies, raised up in these latter days, after long travail, and sent forth to publish the glad tidings of the gospel of Christ, to his neighbors and countrymen, as the following relation will appear. He was a true minister of the everlasting gospel of life and salvation to the sons and daughters of men in life and power, which is glad tidings indeed, to as many as receive it. But now he has been removed and taken from us, and has gone to his everlasting rest, and his works follow him.
The removing of so many of the Lord's worthies from among us of late these years, is a matter of weighty consideration, with which my heart has often been deeply affected. But in this I am comforted, that we are not left destitute, and that the work is the Lord's; and though they are taken away, he can raise up others in their place. And those who died in the Lord, and if we are faithful we shall go to them, seeing they cannot return to us, where we shall forever live to laud and praise the name of the Lord. In the meantime let us pray the Lord of the harvest, that he will send forth more faithful laborers into his vineyard, to supply the places of those who are removed; for the harvest indeed is great, and much work is yet to be done before the nations are converted unto him; and the true laborers, in comparison of the greatness of the work, are yet but few. I should not have presumed to write anything concerning this our deceased friend, considering how many more able there are to speak of him, had I not had more than a common respect for him, for his testimony's sake, and having been intimate acquaintance with him for about twenty years. I knew his temper and spirit well; and were it not to give some account of the ensuing journal, and my concern in it which is as follows : Our friend John Gratton, whose service in the Truth, and labors in the work of the Lord, are, I doubt not, fresh in the memories of many, who will be glad to hear the account of him, left an account, in several manuscripts, of his life, labors, travels, and sufferings, which, being sent up to London since his decease, were put into my hands, with the desire that I would peruse and compare them. This I carefully did, and brought the substance of all into one, according to the order of time, as near as I could in his own words, not omitting anything that was material. May the Lord make it serviceable to all that read it, that it may redound to his glory, the advancement of his truth, and the comfort of his people.
He died in the first month, 1711, [March 1711]. And precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his saints; to whose divine grace and guidance I recommend all, with my own soul.
London, the 20th of the Twelfth month, 1719
JOURNAL OF THE LIFE OF JOHN GRATTON
— by John Gratton
IT has often been in my heart to write a short account, to leave behind me, of the Lord's gracious dealings with me, and of the great mercies, which in his infinite love, he has freely bestowed upon me, far beyond my deserts or expectation, to my great joy and consolation. Praises, thanks, glory, honor and renown, be given and ascribed unto him; for he alone is worthy, God over all, blessed forever, amen. To the end that my children and others, who may see these lines, may be encouraged to trust in the living God, and to cast their care upon him, and obey him truly; for he never fails them that put their trust in him, and abide in his blessed counsel.
When it first pleased the Lord to visit me, and to cause his light to shine in me, which is now my life, I was only a child, and was keeping my father's sheep, and was addicted to sin and vanity, for which I was reproved and smitten inwardly. It was made manifest to me that I was not in a state of salvation, nor had I any true peace in my mind; but whenever I came seriously to consider my condition, I found an accuser near me. I also found, that He who reproved me for sin, and showed me the deceit of my heart, also counseled me to embrace truth and righteousness, and was always with me, to instruct me, and guide me in the way of holiness, and advised me to sin no more in word or deed, but always to speak truth. When I took his counsel and followed his advice, then was I easy, and my burden seemed to lighten, and it would give me encouragement to hold on, and take heed to that good Spirit in me, which thus instructed me to godliness, and to shun what was evil. I found, as it were, two spirits working in me, both striving to control me, opposing each other; but I found the good Spirit, for so it was, always counseled me to do good things; and when I was obedient to it, then I found the evil spirit could not break my peace. Had I stood here, and always lived in the counsel of this good Spirit of instruction, and not rebelled against it, then my peace would have been as a river.
I was about ten or eleven years old, when the Lord visited me with the light of his Son, and gave me to see the vain life and way I lived in, being much given to play among rude boys, taking great delight in playing at cards, and bow target shooting, and ringing of bells, for which I was reproved. I came to see that vain sports and pleasures were displeasing to the Lord, which I was inclined to, before I came truly to know the Word of God in my heart and mouth, to hear it and do it; and I was judged in myself for the same, but I didn’t know the Judge, for I was only a child. I did not yet know the Lord, nor think it had been he who met me in my heart and conscience, and told me all that ever I did, and made all things manifest that were reproved; though I had read in the Scriptures, that Christ was come to redeem from a vain conversation, to serve the living God. And Christ taught to pray, "Your kingdom come, your will be done in earth, as it is in heaven," and said, "I came not to do my own will, but the will of him that sent me," and, "not my will but your will be done," when he was to drink that bitter cup, of the cross; and, "he that will be my disciple, must deny himself, and take up his cross daily and follow me:" and so the cup he was to drink of, and the baptism he was to be baptized with, they should [also drink of and be baptized with.] Oh! it is beyond words, or the depth of man's wisdom to reach, and yet we must drink of it, and be baptized with his baptism. It was he that appeared in me, when I was young, though I knew him not, but followed hireling priests, Presbyterians, etc., yet was uneasy among them all.
When I saw that I didn’t live as I should, a fear came over me, and I sat down upon the ground, and was very serious; and thought to live more carefully and holy for the time to come. And when this mind was begotten in me, I felt and saw the grace of God appear in me, but I didn’t know what it was, yet. I would gladly have held it, and have kept the enjoyment of it, but did not; for being young, my mind went out again after vain and childish sports, and sinful, foolish pastimes, when I met with my companions, sporting myself in earthly things, and so fell from the counsel of the heavenly, and lost the sense, sight and feeling of it; so that trouble and sorrow of mind came over me. I lived that way for five or six years; and as I grew in years, so it increased in me. Yet I often found the heavenly Monitor counseling me, which sometimes sharply reproved me and sometimes gently instructed me. At last it clearly opened my heart to me, and broke my peace, and caused his terrors to seize upon me, and I was wounded at my heart, and great was my sorrow, and my tears were many, and I didn’t know what to do. Yet in this state of sorrow, I sometimes had a secret hope, and this kept me from sinking under the great weight that lay upon me. This gave me courage to pray to God, though I didn’t know how to pray; but yet I thought, that in secret, where none could hear or see me, I could pray best, and could confess those sins, and pray for forgiveness and for power over them; the sins that I was not willing men should know of. But still I didn’t find power to forsake the sins I was so prone to, because I didn’t receive him, to whom all power is given, nor yet knew him. I little thought it had been He who told me all that ever I had done, and searched out all my secret sins. There was nothing hidden from him, for he discerned the very thoughts and intents of my heart, and I was even laid naked before him, and could hide nothing from him. Yet his appearance seemed such a poor, low, despised thing, that I didn’t believe in it, nor thought to have found Christ in me, but looked for him, or concluded him to be in heaven, above the skies. And though he appeared to me wonderfully by his Spirit, yet I did not know him, but still rejected his counsel, and came not to him, to be taught by him; though he had long waited to be gracious to me. Glory to his Name forever, for he made many things manifest to me. Great was the travail of my poor soul. All outward things sometimes seemed little worth to me, and I cried unto the Lord, that he would tell me what he would have me to do, and that he would show me, who were his people, that worshipped him correctly, according to his will.
I read much, and conferred with many about religion, and ran to and fro, to hear those that were accounted great preachers, but neglected the great Teacher in my own heart. I esteemed the priests that were then in place, in Oliver Cromwell's time, and went constantly to hear them, but often came home full of sorrow; for I was not satisfied with their doctrine of election and reprobation, which put me into deep trouble. And I was sometimes very near concluding that I was a reprobate; my state appearing to be a state of sin. Yet I believed, that men who were in Christ, were elected, but men out of Christ, are out of the way to God; for Christ is the elect and chosen of God, the heir of all things, and all that are in him, are co-heirs with him. If Christ is theirs, then all is theirs; and Christ is all in all to them in whom he lives and reigns. But if Christ is not in them, they are reprobates, without God in the world, dead in sins and trespasses; and all they do are dead works, dead prayers, dead preaching, dead worship and performances. And many are seeking the living among the dead, and among dead ordinances, dead faiths, dead observations, and dead professions. My sorrows increased; yet I strove hard to get ease, and read much, and prayed much in secret, and went to hear sermons very eagerly.
I had now become a member of the Presbyterian church, and had been much among them, and told some of them part of my condition. But, alas! alas! they could not help me; no, or themselves either; but would tell me, it was a good condition, and I must be troubled with my sins as long as I lived, and the best of God's children all along had their failings. All this was to persuade me to sit down contented, before I was cleansed and washed from my sins. Oh! these were the physicians of no value; these were they that daubed with untempered mortar, and cried, peace, peace, when there is no peace at all experienced. So that my sorrows increased upon me, and when the people sang psalms in the steeple-house, and I have been there, I dared not sing the same sayings of David, as they did. It would have been a lie in my mouth; for I saw I was not in the condition David was in, nor could I sing it truly, as my song; and if I had I would have said or sung a false thing about myself. My sorrows still increased night and day, and my tears and fears also were many. Sometimes, I secretly prayed to the Lord, and confessed all my sins, and begged of the Lord forgiveness, and used many words, some of which, it may be, I had learned of the priests, and some that were real, according to my state. Yet, when I had done, I was condemned, and full of sorrow, and my spirit would sometimes be more heavy laden after I had finished, than before I began, being condemned in myself, that I had not prayed in faith, nothing doubting; nor in the spirit of prayer and supplication, and I could find no rest to my poor soul.
I mourned deeply because I was unholy, and unrighteous, though my neighbors thought better of me, for I saw my sins and trespasses were many, and believed the Scriptures that said, "No unclean thing can enter the kingdom of Heaven," and “without holiness, no man shall ever see the Lord." I mourned deeply, and was ready to think, that my heart was not right in the sight of God. I prayed much in private in the stable and barns, and in bed, and on the high-moor. One day, being alone on the top of a hill, in the snow, I cried aloud with strong cries to the Lord, and desired him to show me my own heart, and the Lord was pleased to hear and answer my prayer, at that time; so that he gave me to see my own heart, that I knew it was the Lord that showed it to me, to my satisfaction; for I plainly saw it to be deceitful, and not a good, humble, pure heart. I was pleased that I saw it, and knew what it was; but sorry it was so very bad.
This was the first time, to my remembrance, that I was sure the Lord gave me an answer to my prayers. But I had deep sorrow, yes, very deep, and sometimes I was ready to say, Oh, that I had never been born! watering my pillow with tears; but it pleased the Lord to put it into my mind to be content, and wait for the Lord's time, for him to give me further knowledge of his will.
For a while I lived in great sorrow, fear, and trouble. Oh! it was indescribable; so that in the morning, I was glad that the day was come, and at night, that night was come; and I was apt to think, that no man's condition was ever like mine.
About this time, King Charles II came to the crown; and after awhile uniformity of religion was legislated allowing no one to preach in churches, so called, unless they conformed to the common prayer, and observed those ceremonies that were set up by the Episcopalians; or else be silent [not preach]. Then the Presbyterian priests, whom I had so much esteemed and admired, made their farewell sermons, and left us; for they would not to conform to the common prayer themselves,* and declined to remain with their flocks; which caused me to weep bitterly.
At which point it came into my mind to search the Scriptures, to see whether those the Lord sent forth to preach the gospel, in the demonstration of the Spirit, could be silent at man's command, though they were men in authority that had forbidden them. And whether these, who now pretend to be his ministers, could, according to Scripture, be clear to leave their flocks and congregations, due to the will of man, yes, or no. For I believed that if God had sent them, and set them up, then man ought not to pull them down. I likewise found it clear, by the Holy Scriptures, that they ought not to be silent at man's command, if the Lord had sent and commanded them to preach; but to obey God rather than man, when the Lord commands one thing and man another; as the three children and Daniel also, who patiently bore the wrath of the king, and were put into the fiery furnace and lions' den; they trusted in God, and he delivered them. I found in Isaiah 62:1 that, in plain words, the Lord commanded those that make mention of the Lord, not to keep silence, [at man's command]. And when the rulers of the Jews commanded the apostles not to preach any more in the name of Jesus, they answered with a query, "Whether it is right in the sight of God, to obey men rather than God, judge you. For we cannot but speak the things which we have heard and seen; and they went strait into the temple, and preached or taught." In the next chapter, when the Lord delivered them out of prison, they went again into the temple and taught, and one came and told the rulers, " Behold the men whom you put in prison, are standing in the temple and teaching the people." Then they sent for them before the council, and the high priest said, "Did not we strictly command you, that you should not teach in this Name, and behold, you have filled Jerusalem with your doctrine, and intend to bring this man's blood upon us." Then Peter, and the other apostles answered, and said, "We ought to obey God rather than men:" and immediately, to their faces, they preached boldly, and did not keep silence, nor flee their testimony, as these priests did in those days.
And that able minister of Christ, the Apostle Paul, said, "Necessity is laid upon me, and woe is unto me, if I preach not the gospel." He and they had the gospel to preach, and knew it to be weighty and powerful, and were filled with the Holy Ghost, so that they could not contain, or be silent, for if they had, they had felt the woe. Men could not silence them, though they used violence to them; for they chose to suffer rather than to be silent; for to be silent they dared not, seeing their great Lord and Master had commanded them to preach; nor could they be silent, unless they would bring themselves under that woe, which man could not take off. Though they imprisoned them, whipped and stoned them, and used great violence to them, yet they testified, even to the very faces of those kings and rulers they were brought before, of their way of worship, and of the Truth and Life that is eternal; not valuing their lives, or counting them dear unto themselves.
Meeting with the priest, who had lived in the parish where I did, I spoke my mind to him, and told him, that I believed if God was pleased to fit and qualify men for the work of the ministry, as a gift to them for it, and send them to preach, they ought to obey God; and if men did forbid them to obey God, they ought not to ignore their obedience to God to please men; nor to be silent at man's command, if God commands them to preach or teach, as he did his servants of old time. Those he sends in these days ought to be obedient to God, though man is displeased, and causes them to suffer for righteousness sake; for the Lord is God, and will help them, and recompense them into their bosoms an hundred fold in this life, and in the world to come life everlasting.
He told me that he preached in his own hired house, as Paul did at Rome, and was not silent; but that did not satisfy me, for Paul was a prisoner, and they were not. If they had stayed until they were pulled out and put in prison, then they would have done like men that trusted in God, and it was a question whether men would have had power to take them from their flocks; but they fled and left us. Having searched the holy Scriptures, I found that they were contrary to them, and that both the Old and New Testament were against them. If they had been true ministers of Christ, they could not be silent, though they had laid down their lives, not knowing that after they left grievous wolves might come in. I was fully persuaded in my mind upon the before said grounds, that the Presbyterians were not the true ministers of Christ; and I felt my mind turned against them, considering, if God had sent them, they should have stood in their places; but if they were not sent of God, then they ran before they were sent, and were not the men that I had taken them to be; and now they were made known.
So I left them, and saw they were like those spoken of by our Lord in the 10th of John, who were hirelings, and not true shepherds; for when they saw the wolf come, they left the flock and fled; but the true Shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. Where to go, or what to do, I did not know. Therefore I was very grieved, and could not tell who the people of the Lord were, but often cried, Lord! show me who are your people, and those who worship you correctly. I pray you join me unto them, and enable me to serve you, that I may enjoy your presence. Had I then joined to the Lord, and to the gift or grace of God that appeared in my heart, and believed in it, and obeyed the teaching of it, I should then have been joined to the Lord in his spirit, and also have been brought to them who were in the Spirit before me; for they are his true worshippers who are in the Spirit, and in that, worship God correctly, who is a Spirit.
The Presbyterians being removed out of the pulpit, and out of my heart also, then the Episcopal priests came in their white surplices, and read common prayer, with long composed forms, that we had nothing of in the holy Scriptures. This was as a dead, empty sound to me, and my spirit was grieved with it, for I met with nothing at all of the life or power of God in them; so that I saw they had a form without the power. If this had been the form of godliness, yet being without the power, the Scripture exhorts from such to turn away; and the power that they came in by, was the same that the others were put to silence by; and this power had authorized the priest to compel all to buy his wares, and if any refused, he had power given to excommunicate him out of their synagogue; and then, though he would not have his ware, yet he had power to make him pay for it when he was cast out.
Hearing that all must go to this form of worship, I also went to worship, (I didn’t know what). When I came, who should come to carry on the work, but a former Presbyterian minister, who had spoken so much against the Episcopal common prayer, and those ceremonies then commanded by men to be used. But rather than lose those great benefits [monies] that yearly came in, for praying and preaching to the people, he swallowed down what before he had vomited up. I observed their worship, and I searched the Scriptures again and again, and found the power they stood in not to be the power of God, but of men. I found that God commanded, "Whatever you would that men should do to you, do you even so unto them, for this is the law and the prophets;" but they went to the contrary.
The Lord commanded his servant Paul, saying, "Pray always, with all prayer and supplication, in the spirit;*" but I found the Episcopal prayers in a book. I found the worship God required, to be in spirit and in truth; but the Episcopal worship was in ceremony and outward external things without life. I found the Lord commanded in the New Testament, not to observe days and times, and months and years; but these priests commanded days to be observed, one above another. The Lord commanded his ministers, saying, "Freely you have received, freely give ;" but these gave nothing freely, but sat ready to receive, and compelled people to give them. Finally, I found them in nothing suitable to the Scriptures, and as I then concluded, none elsewhere, but like the false prophets who were spoken of in Scripture. Then I departed from them, refusing to join with them, separated from them by the Lord, blessed be his name forever, who has been gracious to my soul, far beyond what I can express. Living praises be given to his holy Name, forevermore.
I left them, with their dead forms, dead sounds, dead works, yes, all seemed dead to me; and to have stayed there, seeking the living among the dead, would not have profited my poor soul at all. I had this saying in my mind; Whoever is right, I don’t know; but these people are wrong, their eyes are blinded, their ears are dulled, their hearts are proud, carnal, covetous; greedy after their gain, and they do not profit the people at all. If they leave people, after ten, twenty, thirty or forty years tithing them, yet they are no better for all the charges they have put them to; they are miserable sinners still, and likely to be so.
Though this was seen by me, I still did not have that wisdom to come to the true light, which made them manifest to me; but was considering, in my own wisdom, what to do, and yet could not tell, or find out the true worshippers. I heard of a sort of people much commended, who used to meet in private houses, in great fear of being persecuted, but were much commended by great professors, whom I looked upon to be understanding men. I went to their meetings, some of whom were called Independents, some Presbyterians, and some Anabaptists. I found some of this mixed multitude believed that God had elected a certain number to be saved, and had reprobated all the rest. Others of them held forth free grace, or Christ a gift freely given to all. Some held baptizing infants in water; some said no, none ought to be baptized in water until they believe; some baptized not at all.
But the greatest thing of all I did not find among them, namely: the Lord to my comfort; nor could I see the power of God upon them, or among them; but pride abounded, slandering one another, foolish jesting, vain talking, fashioning themselves according to the customs of the world, many of them conforming so far as to go once to their own private meeting, and then go to the parish steeple house, though they had much to say against the steeple-house worship. I saw they feared man greatly, as it appeared; for because the penalties of the law of man were great for having separate meetings, they stopped, and were not to be found, and kept silent, rather than hazard the loss of this world's goods. So I was still in great trouble of mind, and did not know what to do; for the Lord was what I longed for, and to glorify him was my desire; but I didn’t find that with which to do it.
Then I went to Chesterfield, to seek out and meet with those people called Independents; for I liked the name, seeing nothing at all in man to depend on. But they depended only upon the death and sufferings of Christ in his own body, yet did not come to see him nor his appearance in themselves to be their life, and had not heard his voice, and the Word of God did not abide in them. So they were dead believers, and dry trees, not bringing forth fruit. But they preached free grace, universal love, general redemption, and tendered mercy to all. This pleased me well, far better than the Presbyterian doctrine of election and reprobation.
Yet I was not satisfied or easy, for I read the Scriptures very much, and saw by reading the Scriptures, with the secret help of Almighty God, which he afforded me in his infinite love, that as many as were led and guided by the Spirit of God, they were sons of God; and that, if any man has not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his. This is such a clear distinction between the children of God and the children of the wicked one, or the children of this world, that there is no uniting them. This is clear from the holy Scriptures. For light and darkness are opposites; and Christ and Belial, believers and infidels are past uniting, without a new creation, a new birth, which the unconverted are encouraged to wait for, seek for, beg and hope for.
I saw, that without the enjoyment of God in my own soul, all was in vain. It was little comfort to me to read and hear what other men had enjoyed, while I wanted it. The wise virgins' oil would not serve them and me too. I saw that a little measure of the Spirit of God was more precious than all this vain world; and that short of this I could not rest. I made my remarks on those Independents, and saw they were very proud, and afraid of men and sufferings; and when we went to meetings, we were cautioned to go as secretly as possible. So that they went several ways, one under one hedge side, and another under another, that we might not be taken notice of. Then, when we came to the meeting places, scouts or watchers were set to see and to give notice, that if a magistrate came, we might all run away and break up our meeting. This seemed a wrong thing to me, and it displeased me; for I saw that they were not like the disciples of Christ, who were not ashamed or afraid to own Christ before men. Doing this did not tend to spread the gospel, if they preached it.
I did not enjoy any true peace with God among them, or enjoyment of the Lord in my poor soul. So I left them, and all churches and people, and continued alone like one that had no mate or companion; yet at times some hope would arise beyond my expectation, and I believed God had a people somewhere. But I didn’t know who they were, and was now afraid to join with any, for fear that they would not worship God correctly. Then I might be guilty of idolatry, at which I had often observed the Lord had been very offended among the Jews, and not only threatened them sorely by his prophets, but also brought judgments upon them, for their idolatry and rebellion against him.
The sorrows of hell took hold on me and the very pangs of death beset me round; which way to turn I did not know, but I could find none to comfort me, or lend me a hand in my tears, fears, terrors, grief, amazements, bitterness, anguish and deep mourning. Yet I was forward to discourse and talk with many about matters of religion, who would talk with me, for many had a love to me, but the priests I saw were in deceit, and I was sharp upon them at times. And my sorrows were so great that sometimes I roared out, and cried mightily to the Lord when I traveled upon the plains and moors, and thought none was near to hear or see me but the Lord alone, who was the only one to whom I did look and hope in for help and deliverance. Now it pleased the Lord to open and show me many things; and he opened holy Scriptures to me sometimes, and I was mightily afraid of sinning against the Lord, so that I walked carefully. It grieved me to see people live badly, and that they could not believe one another, what they said when they bought and sold; and when I heard a man swear I trembled. Sometimes I felt something in my inward parts that was very precious and sweet to me, yet I did not clearly understand what it was; but if at any time I did or said anything that was not right, then I soon lost the sight and feeling of that. Oh! it has been gone in a moment; I saw that everything which offended the holy God and was reprovable, would not abide; but all defilement, and whatsoever was tinctured with evil was against it. It let me see it and condemned it and me too, so far as I joined with it. Oh! to enjoy this is a comfort beyond utterance, to that heart which loves righteousness and hungers after it. When I have been talking with a person who did not see that I had spoken a wrong word, (yet I saw it), and the Lord's spirit gave me to see it, though it may be, it slipped from me at unawares for want of diligent heed, and watching like a doorkeeper, as I ought to have done; then my sorrows would be renewed upon me, and tears and fears in abundance. Yet a secret desire was in me, that I might die, and go out of this wicked, sinful world, where I found it rare to find a true hearted man or woman.
One first-day, after I had been reading awhile and weeping another, under a wall in a field, about the middle of the day I came home, and found my father and mother had come over to see us, for I then lived with my grandfather as an apprentice, and I thought they would hinder me from minding the exercise I was in, which was deep. In the afternoon I fell ill of bodily sickness; and when I felt my illness grow upon me, I was glad, and in some hopes I should be taken out of this world; for I was plainly sick with trouble of mind; yet a secret hope was underneath, that if I did die, the Lord, who is gracious and merciful, would forgive the sins of my childhood and youth. After I was pretty well again, I went to the moor to pull heath, and being alone, as my manner was, I was very full of exercise, and began to think that that which I had sometimes felt so sweet and precious, and sometimes as a swift witness, a reprover, a just judge, and a condemner of all unrighteousness, was the holy Spirit of God; and remembered that I had been often visited by it, and yet did not know it. For I thought I was not worthy to have the holy Spirit given me, and that it would be presumption in me to expect it; yet now it came into my mind, to think much of it, and of its operations and workings in me. It darted into my mind, that it was really the Spirit of truth, and I had not felt it, nor seen its appearance for some time past; and then I was full of fears, for fear that I had sinned against the Holy Ghost. And such terror fell upon me that I dared not tarry upon the moor, but arose,—for I was lying on the ground,—and got away home. I remembered what made me so desirous to die the day my parents came to see us, when I had been reading and weeping much, and such a tender frame came over me, that a hope sprung up in me, that if I died in that frame of spirit, the Lord would have mercy on me, so that I was desirous to die while that frame and hope continued.
Yet after all this, I fell into trouble again, and sorrow took hold on me. In this time I happened to meet with a young man who was dissatisfied about matters of faith and worship; and we appointed to meet on the first-day after at a woman's house, who was called a Quaker; but I did not know that until after, or but little of any such people, though I had heard of them. When the day came, we met, and it fell out that two other men came and met with us; they were both called Quakers, but had not been so long. We spent the day mostly in discussion. One of the men was of small appearance and slow utterance, and one that never used to preach in meetings. Yet that day the Lord's power came upon him, and he so spoke that he reached the witness of God in me; and I thought that that exercise came upon him in mercy to me. But, alas! I had entertained such hard thoughts of these people, that I went homeward very sorrowful. My cry still went up to the Lord, that he would show me Zion, the city of my God, and who they were that dwelt therein. And that first-day, as I was alone, and in great exercise of mind about these things, it pleased the Lord to show me his people who served him. As I walked along through a dark wood, I was so exercised that I scarcely knew how I was; and as I came out of the wood to go up a hill, I had a vision, and I saw a people laid close one by another in a very low place, lower than the other parts of the earth, where they lay still and quiet. I looked upon them; for it rose in my heart, that they were the Lord's people. This made me look earnestly, to see who they were, that I might know them to my comfort, whom the Lord owned for his people; and I saw plainly that they were the people called Quakers, a poor, despised, low sort of people. When I perceived this, I was as one amazed and in great trouble; for these were a people of all others that endured the greatest sufferings, and were by all the rest hated, reviled and scorned. As I walked on, the vision ended; but I was in a strange frame, and considering the matter, I felt a change in me, and I knew that my countenance was altered. I drew near a little village, my way lying through it; but I had a mind to escape being seen as much as I could, because I concluded that they would take notice that my countenance was much altered. But it fell out, that when I had gotten almost through the town, there was a woman who saw me and called to me, though I went as far from her as I well could, to keep in the road. She asked me how I was, and what ailed me to look so? I gave her little answer, but said, "Not very well." So I passed on, and coming to the top of a high hill, I sat down. There it was shown me, that if I would be a true follower of the Lamb, I must forsake the world, its corrupt ways, fashions, customs, worships, and all the vain glory, love and friendship of it. I saw, if I now came into obedience to the Lord, who had thus graciously heard my cries, and answered my breathings, or rather, the breathings which he had begotten in me, that I must part with all the reputation, friendship, love and praise of men, which I then had, and lived in; and I must forsake my old companions, with whom I had wasted much precious time in vain sports and gaming, which we lived and delighted in, with many other things I prized highly; all which I must now let go for the Lord, if I would choose and follow him. At this I was much troubled, for I was very loath to lose either, and would gladly have had both the love of God and the love of men too. I would have chosen to enjoy both God and the world; but could not. My love to these vanities was so great, and I prized them so much, that it went very hard with me, to think of losing all for Christ, yes, even as bitter as death almost to me in appearance; for the love and favor of the people I valued highly, and the cross so great, that I could then by no means persuade myself to take it up. The conflict I was in was great, and a very sharp war was in me. Yet I did not disclose my condition to anyone, but kept all in secret from other men. But the all-seeing eye beheld me, and allowed me not to be overcome, nor the enemy to destroy my poor soul. But he did allow the enemy to try and prove me, until the Lord was pleased to raise up his living witness in me, which I admired but did not know what it was; that it was the grace or gift of God that brings salvation, which appeared to me, though I had grieved it, and disobeyed it, until it seemed to grow less and less, and to withdraw so long that I could see but little of its appearance. Yet it never wholly left me, though I rebelled often against it; but still it rebuked, reproved and judged me, that I could not be at peace, because it loved me, and would not let me alone, but waited to be gracious to me But I was loath to take the counsel of it. I was greatly exercised in my mind, and was dissatisfied about the things of eternity, and my sorrows were deep, and no man knew them.
Before I got home, the enemy came near as if he would have whispered in my ear these words, "Who knows but this may be a trick of the enemy," meaning the vision. A part soon appeared in me which was seemingly pleased with this whisper, and said, "It is very likely it may be so." Thus my old self sought to save itself. Then I remembered that the priests of those days had preached down all such things, as not to be looked for in these days; but said, visions, revelations and miracles were all ceased, and that it was presumption for any man to look for the Spirit of God to be given him now as formerly. So I threw off all again, as a dangerous thing, and would take no further notice of it. I even desired, and was ready to say in my heart, Oh! that the Lord would please, in these perilous times, to speak audibly to some man, as he did to Moses, that we might assuredly know his mind; seeing one cries, Lo, here! and another, Lo, there! But Christ, the power of God is in none of them. So great blindness and darkness seized upon me, and woeful ignorance, when I had rejected the Lord's counsel, and trampled such an extraordinary visitation under my feet, and turned my back on it, as the work of the enemy.
I have great cause to admire the Lord's mercies towards me, that I was not wholly forsaken by him, for his eye was still over me, though for a time I was in deep darkness and distress, and my concern was very great. In which time I conferred with many men of several opinions, but I found none that could help me in this matter, because I came not to Him that is mighty, on whom help is laid. Thus was I like a bird alone in the wood, without a mate, joined to none.
In this state I met with an unexpected exercise; for within a few days after this, one first-day, there came to me a young man who was full of inquiry, and a great seeker, who told me there was a book that had lately come out, that had the greatest mysteries in it that ever were, as far as he knew. He said that God had spoken audibly to John Reeve of London, and had told him to go to Lodowick Muggleton; that Muggleton was to be as his mouth, as Aaron was to Moses, and had given them commission above all men, and power to bless them that believed them, and to curse them that spoke against them; and whom they blessed, they said were blessed, and whom they cursed were cursed to all eternity; with many other strange things. I greatly desired to see the book; for this, if true, was the thing I had desired, and I thought with myself, that no man would dare presume to say such a thing, unless it was really true. In a few days I went to Chesterfield and saw it, and as one that had my wish, I read it eagerly; and upon reading where he said the Lord had spoken to him, and given to him and Muggleton a commission; and that they were the two witnesses spoken of in the 11th chapter of the Revelation, I was ready to believe it. I borrowed the book then, and afterwards bought it, and as many other of his books, as cost me eight shillings, and read them through several times, and concurred with him in many things, and at last I was so taken with the story that I was likely to be deceived by it, and also the young man. Then it pleased the Lord in mercy to visit me again, to open mine eyes and enlighten my understanding, and he gave me to see great errors in the book; that his writings were clearly opposite to the holy Scriptures in many respects; for they that were of that opinion, and carried away to believe the false prophet Muggleton, for Reeve was dead, had no worship at all. When we met together—those few that were at one widow Carter's—we were not for either waiting upon God, or for any other exercise at all of either preaching, praying, or reading holy Scriptures. No, we had no more to do, but to believe Muggleton, and be saved. So we spent some time in discussion, and then parted. I saw it was clear from the holy Scriptures, that the Lord was pleased men should worship him, according to his own will, in all ages, and would be sanctified in the assembly of his saints, and held in reverence by all that were about him; but there was nothing of this among the Muggletonians. And though the Lord had said that, "Where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them," this neither they nor I knew anything of, but were to trust in Muggleton's name and power; and if he blessed us, we were blessed, live as we would. But if he cursed us, we were cursed; there was no remedy.
I found this doctrine contrary to the doctrine of Christ, the true prophet, who said, Bless, I say, and curse not. But I found that Muggleton's spirit took more delight to curse than to bless. I wrote a letter to him and made twelve or fourteen objections against his doctrine and sent it to him at London. He sent me a letter in return, and referred me to his books, but did not answer any of the objections; but told me he judged I wrote in ignorance and inquiringly, and therefore withheld cursing me until further trial. But I left him, and sat down satisfied that he was a false prophet.
But I was like a man in a cloud, nobody saw my case, and I hardly saw it myself as I would. In this time I was sorely tempted, and yet some hope lay very deep, that I should meet with Christ in spirit, and know his spirit in my own soul. For I understood by the Scriptures, that it was poured forth upon all flesh, sons and daughters, and that nothing could be done well pleasing to the Lord out of it, and that those who were led and guided by the holy Spirit of God were the sons of God. I saw that all worship which was not in spirit and in truth, was not acceptable to God; for all the prophets and the apostles came in it, they having received it according to the prophecy of Joel 2:28, and the promise of Christ, Luke 24:49, as in Acts 2.
After I had been concerned with this man's books, and had finished with them, I resolved to cease reading such strange books, and to read the Scriptures of truth only, by which I was made a little easy. But how to come to Christ, of whom I stood in great need, I did not know, and was almost out of hope, and conversed with many; but did not find true peace, comfort or satisfaction, but was still under much secret sorrow, and was not so wise as to mind the gift or witness of God in me. If I heard any evil reported of the people called Quakers, I was glad and took courage to go on, slighting the appearance of Truth in my inward parts; yet the love of God was so great towards me, that he did not take his holy Spirit from me; praises, living praises, to his holy Name forever.
I moved from the place where I had lived all my time; and came to live at Monyash, six miles from there. I inquired what sorts of believers were there? And I found a people called Anabaptists, of whom I knew very little, but chose rather to accompany them, than with the rude worldly ones. I conferred much with them, and took a liking to them, which brought me to be acquainted not only with their principles, but also with their practices in worship, which when I saw, I could say little against them, but thought they came nearest the Scriptures of any I had yet tried; upon which I went to their meetings, and was almost persuaded, that I ought to be dipped into the water, for unless I was, I had no admittance into their church. Seeing no further, I could gladly have been so, it being a far more easy way to the flesh than to obey the gift of God in me. But I could not get to water baptism in faith; for finding them preach that water baptism is a sign of death, burial and resurrection, and that a man ought to be dead before he is buried; for said they, "It is monstrous in nature to bury a man before he is dead;" and then finding the Holy Scripture said, "That he that is dead is freed from sin; and how can you that are dead to sin live any longer therein ?" I examined myself, and found I was not free from sin, so I was not dead, therefore I was not fit to be buried, and before I was dead and buried, I could not know a rising unto holiness and righteousness. And if I should go and be buried under water as though I were dead, I should dissemble and lie, or deal falsely both with God and man. This kept me out of the water, but one of the leaders of them came to me one day to ask me why I had not been dipped? And I told him as above: he said to me, "Many do come, that I believe are more unfit than you are." I said, that was nothing to me, I dared not. After this I went to see my sister dipped in a river called the Wye; and after that two young men; and when they came up out of the water I spent some time with them, and observed them, who were passed from death to life, (as they signified); but I saw no appearance of the Spirit, or newness of life, or power, or that they had received the Holy Ghost; their baptism being only with water, which can only wash away the filth of the flesh. But those who are baptized into Christ, must be baptized into his death, by dying unto sin, and be buried by his baptism into death, that being made free from sin, they may come to have a part in Christ, the resurrection and the life, by whom they are made alive unto God. For in Christ life is manifest, and we have seen it, and have tasted and handled of the good Word of life, that has been as a fire, and as a hammer to break our rocky hearts asunder, and water has gushed out, and we have felt our hearts made new, and our consciences clean, being washed with pure water, and to answer the pure requirements of the Lord. Our souls being baptized into Christ, and he being put on, in him we have a safe habitation, and come to see, that as none were saved by the ark of Noah but the few that were in it, so none can know salvation but those that are in Christ, the ark of the everlasting covenant. For he is given to be a covenant to the people, a light to lighten the Gentiles, to open their blind eyes, and to be God's salvation to the ends of the earth. And there is no other name under heaven, by which any can be saved but by Jesus Christ, to him be all glory given forever.
I found that they to whom I looked should have been dead to sin, as they professed they were, yet lived in it, and pleaded for it during the term of life. Then I began to question their form, and through mercy I found it was but a form without life or power, and I plainly saw they were not in the power and spirit of God.
Thus the mercy of the Lord preserved me, and his long suffering was salvation to me. He drove me out of all the inventions and imaginations of men, and stripped me naked and bare. I had no hiding place, for these fig trees bear nothing but leaves, and it was bread I wanted, for these outward things brought no inward peace, power, or life, and could not, nor can ever sanctify or make those who come to them perfect as pertaining to the conscience, and therefore cannot satisfy the immortal birth.
Yet I continued with them, until one day as I sat in the meeting, I observed that the elders and chief speakers were putting one another to preach and pray, saying, "Pray do you, you are abler than me." Thus they were urging one another, and as I saw and heard them, there arose a dislike in me of these doings, and I said in my heart, Why do you appoint one another? Let God appoint whom he pleases.
Afterwards there came a mighty power and weight over me, and it was in my heart to go and speak to the meeting. When I felt that, it increased upon me, and I didn’t know how to contain if I did not yield to speak. I gave up and went through the meeting to them, who had been treating one another as before stated, and desired I might have liberty to speak a few words; and one of them told me that it was not their manner, to admit any to speak among them before he was dipped, and entered in by the door, and had passed through the ordinances, or to this effect. "But," he said, "we believe you are an honest man, and will come, and so you may take your liberty." So I turned to the meeting, and spoke so that tears ran down. I admired at the condition I was then in, for I was like a bottle uncorked, and the power of the spirit flowed in me, and when it stopped, I ceased to speak. The next first-day I went again, and the meeting fell in the course of time to be at an elder's house, one Humphrey Chapman. At this time a very wicked Act was put in force against religious meetings held in any other manner than according to the liturgy or practice of the church of England, where above the number of five besides the family were assembled. The fine was twenty pounds the house, and twenty pounds the preacher, and five shillings a hearer. But the elder, so called, refused the meeting, for fear of being fined twenty pounds. Then it was offered to another, who was not only an elder but a preacher, who had dipped the two men before mentioned; but he refused it for fear of his twenty pounds. Then it was offered to a third, who accepted it for that day, though it fell not to be at his house by course. But when I saw the other two refuse the meeting for fear of suffering, one a preacher, who had dipped two men when I stood by, I was not a little troubled; for I remembered the words of Christ, who said, "He that denies me before men, him will I deny before my Father which is in Heaven." So after the meeting was ended, they discoursed about what they must do for time to come; for they must not be at that impasse; and the question was, where and when they must meet, about which they differed much. Some were for meeting in the bottom of a valley, to save the fine of a house; and as for the time, some were for meeting early, to have finished by the time that the priest and people came from the steeple-house to dinner; but some were for beginning then. Some were of one mind and some of another; but there was one whom I loved best, who desired they might meet as they had done formerly.
As I sat and beheld them, I felt the same power arise in me in which I had preached among them that day the week before, with these words, "These people are not the people of God, they do not stand in the power of God."
This I believed, and went away satisfied that it was so; and left them and went no more to join with them in worship.
I was once more singled out, and dared join to none of those formalists, but was like a lost sheep, strayed from my Shepherd, whom, after a long time, I now came again to remember, and was persuaded that it was the gift of God, or the Spirit of Truth, that came to me to lead and guide me in the way of Truth. This wrought in me a great fear and dread, for fear that I should have sinned out my day of visitation; and I greatly questioned whether it would ever appear to me again or not. Yet I had a secret hope, which kept me from being quite hopeless; and I came again to be much exercised in mind, and the travail of my soul was truly to enjoy the Lord, and to be an instrument for his glory, and that I might know his will and worship, and perform the same, and be joined to those who were joined unto him.
I was like a speckled bird, none like me, for as yet I had not been at a Quaker's meeting, but thought to live as holy and righteous as I could among men, and join with none in worship, for fear of being deceived, by joining in false or will-worship and idolatry. Sometimes I went two miles to see a woman at Overhaddon, who pretended to live without food, where I met with professors, I think I may say, of all sorts. One day, a man of London came, called an Independent, and there was a meeting; and he having heard of me, desired me to pray before he began to preach. But I felt a zeal to rise in me against putting men upon that service, which only belonged to God to require and move men to. I refused, and he went on, who could do what he had a mind to do, as far as I saw, in his own will. Then he prayed and preached; but before he had finished preaching I was so pressed in my spirit to pray, that it was a great exercise to forbear until he had finished. Then I prayed; but with such a power, that the people were amazed, and truly so was I too; for I had never prayed so before, for I had both wisdom, faith, and utterance given me. Afterwards I went home and kept away from all people, and joined with none, having tried almost all persuasions among Protestants. I had much sorrow in secret, and was deeply baptized with the spirit of judgment and burning; and I saw the baptism with the Holy Ghost and fire; and my pride and empty knowledge, notions and opinions, yes, my faith that I had got by the wisdom of man was burned up. Oh! the cup that I drank deeply of at that time, is unspeakable. When the holy Spirit appeared in me, Jordan overflowed her banks; it was deep at that moment of time, but in the midst of judgment the Lord showed mercy. It began to be much in my mind, and I was ready to conclude that what I had felt in me, was really the Spirit of the Lord that had waited on me long, and striven with me. As I once said to two professors, that something appeared in me, as one who had a mind to be receptive; but for lack of my being open hearted, and inclined to embrace, receive, and mind it, I often lost the sight and feeling of it. Those to whom I told how it was with me, said nothing to me at all, nor could they tell me what it was, though I told them that they should inform me. The appearance of it was mild, meek, low and gentle, and full of good counsel, but stood firm always, and condemned evil, reproving, rebuking and judging it righteously; so that I was much persuaded, in the secret of my heart, that it was the pure, holy Spirit of God; and then I thought if it did not come again, my state was dreadful, sad and deplorable. I mourned and lamented; but none knew my sorrows but the Lord alone.
Now I did not know what to do; for my former resolution to live a holy life, and to be as righteous as ever I could, I found did not help me to peace with God; nor had I any true rest for my poor soul day or night. For I had no power to live as I desired to do, though no man could condemn me for any ill things; yet I saw that in myself which others could not. I wanted the Lord's presence, for without that my soul could not be satisfied nor find true rest; though my life and conversation was such, that most loved me who knew me.
About this time I entered into a married state, and went to house-keeping. After some time, my wife grew earnest to have me go with her to hear a priest, but I dared not; for I saw they were wrong as much as any, other than the Papists, and great sorrow fell on us; and we disputed often until we both wept.
In this condition I met with great temptation, and the enemy sought my ruin, both of soul and body; all which I kept secret. None knew the deep sorrow I was under, night and day; for I had none to open my mind to, except my wife, and I dared not tell her, for fear that I should trouble her, and put her in fear concerning me. But yet sometimes, upon close search, I found a little hope, but it was very low and very small.
After a time a cry arose in me to the Lord. Oh, that I knew his will, and what he would have me to do! that I knew his people, and his true worship, which he is well pleased with, that I might be joined to those that were joined to him. Oh, that I understood correctly the things that belong to my peace! When I awoke in the morning, a secret cry arose in my heart; Oh! that this day may be my birthday; for I saw that I wanted to be born again, and to be made a new creature, and my exercise was very great. I could meet with no comfort in anything that this world afforded, without the enjoyment of his presence. For this I travailed in spirit before the Lord, and had some hopes he would show mercy to me, which, blessed be his name, I witness. In his own time he caused the Spirit of his Son to arise in my heart, with that power and efficacy, that I clearly saw it was the Spirit of God indeed, which I had so long grieved, which begat a godly sorrow in me. And then I came to it to ask counsel, and it showed me the way of life, and gave me power to become a child of God. Blessed be the Lord forever!
One day, in corn harvest, as I was riding on the road to Sheldon, in deep exercise, and taking a view of my condition, being in deep tribulation and anguish, condemning and judging myself, it pleased the Lord, on a sudden, unexpectedly and unlooked for, to cause the Day Star to arise in my heart, and the Sun of Righteousness with healing in his wings, even when the sorrows of hell seemed to take hold on me. Then it pleased the Lord to appear in me, and to visit me with the dayspring from on high, in a very powerful and wonderful manner, in great mercy, goodness, good-will and infinite loving kindness. I was, in my inward man, full of the power and presence of Almighty God, and his heavenly, glorious light shone in me mightily; so that I may truly say, it far exceeded the brightness of the outward day; and the eye of my understanding was opened, and I saw that it was the Lord's holy Spirit that appeared in me, and I believed, and could not do otherwise.
Oh! then I was glad, and my soul was filled with joy, because I had met with the Lord, who I knew was sufficient to teach me all things; and gave me to see that my sins would be remitted and forgiven, in and through Jesus Christ. Christ Jesus was now become my light and my salvation, and living faith sprang in me; for I felt power and strength to believe. And I then saw and felt what true faith was, and also that I never had had true, living faith before then; this was the free gift of God, for it sprung up in his power, and stands in it.
I also saw life eternal manifested through Christ Jesus; so I tasted of the good word of God, and was made a partaker of the Holy Ghost, and was enlightened. For the life was manifested, and I saw it, and that the Son of God was come, and gave me an understanding to know him that is true; for he revealed himself, or made himself known in me and to me.
Now my soul was quickened and enlivened in Him and by Him, in whom is life; and I also heard him as the Shepherd and Bishop of my soul, who was come near, even to my own soul. And the holy Scriptures were opened to me to my admiration and joy, and I understood them far beyond what I had done before; and they became more sweet, comfortable and precious to me, so I wondered that I had never seen them so before, having read them so much night and day. But now the Lord gave me in measure to understand them, for they were very plain, and that no man knows them but those to whom it is given, by the holy Spirit of him who has the Key of David, and opens and shuts as he pleases. I kept what I had found that day, and it was to me as the Pearl of great price, hid in my own field, that I had sought in different forms and professions. And I now understood the parables of the lost piece of silver in my own house, and of the little leaven that lay hid in my three measures of meal, which I saw was my body, soul and spirit; and that it had long been working in me, whilst I knew it not, in order to leaven my whole lump, with its own divine nature, that was capable of being leavened into good, by the working of that good and perfect gift which was come down from above, and was freely given me of God; for the sons of God were led and guided into all truth, by the holy Spirit of Truth.
It was he that made David wiser than all his teachers, and did attend him from his youth, and enabled him to go against the lion, the bear, and great Goliath, in the name of the Lord. I saw no man could be a child of God without his holy Spirit; and it was that I had wanted the knowledge of, all my days; and I was glad when I felt and knew that I had it freely given me.
Now my great concern was to mind it, and be obedient to it; for this was my Master and Witness, that would either excuse or accuse, according to my deeds; and my Reprover and Instructor, which showed me all that ever I did, and no thought, word or action was hid from him. I was glad that I had found such a comforter, and that it was poured forth upon all flesh, according to his promise, in Joel 2. and Acts 2. The Apostle said, "He that sanctifies, and they that are sanctified, are all of one." Great had been the work of this measure of grace in me, that had come by Jesus Christ, in order to make me a new creature in Christ, my life, light and salvation; or to leaven me into a new lump, and work a thorough change in me, who had great need of it, being in the corrupt nature a child of wrath, as well as others. Yet I had not a clear knowledge of it, for great had been my ignorance; and though light shone in my dark, ignorant heart, and made all things manifest that were reproved, yet my dark heart had not comprehended it, that it was the light of Christ which so wrought in me. For we lived in darkness, and in the night of blindness, and sowed to the flesh, and took pleasure in unrighteousness, and lived in pleasure, having our affections set on things below, and not on things above; loving the world and the praise of men more than that of God; for the love of God was not yet known to us, nor shed abroad in our hearts, so as to see or feel that it was his love. I was in a profession of religion without life, until the Lord appeared to me, and caused the light of his Son to arise in my heart to my exceeding joy and satisfaction.
But when I was brought to the knowledge of it, which was the Lord's doing, and it was marvelous in my eyes, my sorrow was turned into joy, and greatly was the love of God felt in me. Great love was raised in my heart unto the Lord; and I was deeply sorry that I had ever sinned against him; and felt true repentance given me, and saw that I never knew what true repentance was before. Now I had such a sense and assurance of the love, mercy and goodness of God to me in Christ Jesus, and for his sake, who now was become precious to me, that if I had died in that hour, I was satisfied of my soul's eternal happiness and peace. Oh! then all fear of death and hell was taken away; for I plainly felt my soul so affected with the love of God, that I was troubled that I had grieved his holy Spirit; and great was my desire that I might do so no more.
I went on rejoicing with praises and thanks, which arose in my heart unto the Lord, my joy being great in him; and I was ready to think that my sorrows were ended, and my tears wiped away. A new song was given me that none could sing, but he that had it; and I was glad that I felt the precious Truth in my inward parts, which God loved; and he loves those that love it, live in it, and obey it.
О happy day it was to my soul! I loved the holy Scriptures, which were never so sweet and precious to me before as they were now; and I loved all people, and greatly desired that they might be brought to the knowledge of the Truth as I was; for I knew that it was the will of God that all should be saved.
Thus having met with the Lord to my joy and comfort, I felt that his holy Spirit was rightly called the Comforter, which leads and guides into all Truth, which I rejoiced to know, feel, taste and handle of. Then I turned my mind in to the Lord, to commune with him, desiring to know who were his people, that I might join with them,-and worship him correctly, according to his own will. The Lord in mercy answered me, as I prayed to him; and the word of the Lord was so powerful in my heart that I could do no other than believe it. The Lord made known to me, that the people called Quakers are his people above all other people.
When I understood that this was the Lord's people, I felt a part in me that was sorry; for if it had been any other people I might have been more at liberty to please the world, and to keep the friendship of it, and not be so hated by it. For this people were despised, persecuted, and suffered deeply beyond others; for others could flee from sufferings, and conform a little sometimes; but these abode and stood, though the winds blew, and the rains fell, and the floods beat upon them; for the Lord enabled them to stand and withstand it; all praises forever be given to him!
I felt the Spirit of the Lord, and could not question the truth of what he had manifested to me; only I observed in my mind that the Lord said, "The people called Quakers are my people above all other people;" not that they were his people [only] and no other, but above all other. So that I concluded that there were many more who were not yet called Quakers, that would be brought to know him, as I did then; and feel that he is good, and have his love shed abroad in their hearts, and love him with this, and one another for his sake. I felt love to all, agreeable to that holy song, Peace on earth, and good will towards men; praise, glory and humble thanks to God! for with him is joy unspeakable and glorious, far beyond what I thought I should ever have known.
There was a young man walking a little way off from me, and I felt a love to him, though I didn’t know that he was of any society at that time; but he was afterwards convinced of the Truth, and was a very honest man, and his wife, and three sons, and two daughters were also in time brought to the knowledge of the precious Truth, and some of them remain to this day; and one of them had his mouth opened to preach the Truth. Seeing that I had such a clear manifestation of Truth, I was desirous to do the will of God, and was afraid of losing the sense, and sight, and feeling of what the Lord had in mercy given me the precious enjoyment of, and was pleased to let me see that no man could take that from me, nor hurt my soul, if I did not do it myself. Oh! it was precious to my soul; and then, though I had been offended with the people called Quakers, I now called them Friends, as Christ did those of old that obeyed him.
I went on to my journey's end with my mind exercised in serious consideration. But, as I came back, the world was set before me, and all I had in it, and I saw I must give up all, and let all go; and this was not all, but I was likely to go to prison, and my wife and children might be brought to poverty. But I put my trust in the Lord alone, who is all-sufficient, and is the portion of his people, and the Rock of their safety, forever, amen.
Though the enemy was busy with me, I was concerned to feel the Lord with me, to keep and help me still to abide in him, and with him; and blessed and praised be his Name forever, he did not leave me, nor forsake me, though sometimes he hid, as it were, his face from me; and when I trespassed or offended for want of a diligent watch, or allowed my mind to wander, yet he has not been angry forever; though his Word has been as a sword, and as a hammer, yet in judgment the Lord remembered mercy: and the good Samaritan has come and poured in oil and wine, and healed wonderfully; praise, glory and renown be given to him!
My satisfaction was great, and my heart was turned to the Lord, and my very countenance was so altered, that my wife and neighbors took notice and spoke of it. But I kept my mind inward and said little, but as I had it given me, and kept my exercise to myself for some time, and neither told my wife, nor anybody; for as yet I had not been at Friends' meetings, neither was there any about our Peak country, where I then lived. I met with some Friends at the market, and conferred with them, but did not tell them of my condition; and the greatest part of the town was stirred. Some said well, and had a love for me, and some said ill, and hated me without a cause; and they differed one with another; but after some time, many were convinced and came to meetings.
The Lord having showed me again his poor, despised people, it made me glad when I found with whom to wait upon him. After some time I heard of a meeting at Exton, at one widow Farnay's house, whose husband had been an honest Friend. I went to it, and found many Friends that had come many miles; and when I came, I was confirmed that they were in that Truth of which I had been convinced, though they were so much derided by the world. There was little said in that meeting, but I sat still in it, and was bowed in spirit before the Lord, and felt him with me, and with Friends, and saw they had their minds retired, and waited to feel his presence and power to operate in their hearts, and that they were spiritual worshippers, who worshipped God in spirit and truth. I was sensible that they felt and tasted of the Lord's goodness, as at that time I did; and though few words were spoken, yet I was well satisfied with the meeting. And there arose a sweet melody, that went through the meeting, and the presence of the Lord was in the midst of us, and more true comfort, refreshment and satisfaction did I meet with from the Lord, in that meeting, than ever I had in any meeting, in all my life before, praises be to the Lord forever. I was assured that they were his people, and guided by his Spirit, by which they came to understand his will, and were brought in their measure into true obedience to his commands, being made willing to bear his cross, deny themselves, and become fools, that they might know true wisdom, for which they wait in silence, and to feel the inspiration of the Almighty, to give them an understanding of the things of God, which the natural man cannot understand, because he does not come to wait in the Spirit for the manifestation of it.
I also felt such a love in my heart to them as I had never felt to any people. Oh! it was true love, such a love as none knows, but those who have it. I also felt the same love in them to me, and some of them got me in their arms, and were glad of me, though I knew but few of them, nor they me. So I came home, and my poor wife was sorely grieved that I went among the people called Quakers, and the people of our town began to rage. Some disputed with me, some cursed me, as I heard, some pleaded for me, some derided and mocked me, calling after me, "Quaker, Quaker." When I heard them thus call after me, my heart was glad and filled with joy, that I was reproached for Christ's sake, and thought worthy to take part with Friends in the sufferings of Christ, that were yet behind in his body; and it arose in me, "Now I have got the name." Oh! that I may be truly brought into the nature of God's people. But there were several things that as yet I did not clearly see through; though I felt the Lord with me, and was sure it was the Truth. Yet I intended, in the secret of my mind, not to imitate the Quakers, but I would put off my hat to men, and use the same language that I had done; for I did not like their plain language and behavior to people. I was not willing to come into the practice of this in imitation of Friends, thinking I should please people better if I said you to a single person, and put off my hat to them; for many love to be worshipped, though there is no worship due to any creature upon earth. So I was hidden for a time, few knowing what I was, nor what I had seen, heard and felt; yet I knew it was the Lord that met with me on the road, and it was with such power, that I willingly received it to my great satisfaction and comfort, and believed that the Lord, when he saw proper, would open my understanding and give me to understand the holy Scriptures, which he has since in mercy wonderfully done.
I was careful to hold that permanently, which was freely given unto me; and it came into my mind to wait on the Lord, to know what he would have me to do; so I waited in my mind to hear what the Lord my God would say to me.
And after some time, as I was riding on the road, and waiting, the word of the Lord arose in great power in my heart, saying, Speak truth to your neighbor, be not double-tongued—respect no man's person.
This fully satisfied me; and I saw I was to enter the kingdom of heaven as a little child, and was to learn anew to speak and walk, and stood in need to be helped and held up by the secret hand of the Almighty Omnipresent God, and to mind him in all I said, and in all my walking and doings. I came to see that this had been the language of God from the beginning, and the language of all the righteous people in all ages, and that no prophet, apostle or servant of God did ever use any other language to him, either in prayer, praises, or in their writings in any age. I saw that God changes not, and that as men truly turn to him, they come to be true men. But this language and conversation was hard to flesh and blood, that would have pleased men, and had their praise, which I got when I was young, and it went hard with me to lose it all, which I knew I must, though they took offence at me for my obedience to the Lord. So I gave up in obedience to the will of God, in which I found life and peace to my soul, and great encouragement and joy in the Lord, though this way of speaking and carriage went very hard with me, and was a great cross to my natural part, and helped to lay me very low, and to mortify the old man in me, and made me willing to be a fool in the eyes of the world, and to be despised of men.
Now, blessed and forever praised be the Lord God Almighty! He has made glad my soul, and satisfied the breathings of my spirit; he has opened to me the mysteries of his kingdom, and given me a measure of his grace, and caused his light to arise in me, and the darkness to flee away. He has given to me the true bread of life, and made my heart glad with the wine of his kingdom; he is become my teacher himself, and has gathered me into his power, and covered me with the banner of his love; he has become my hiding place, my rock, strength and refuge. I need not fear what man can do to me. He is my portion, I shall not want, and therefore I trust in him alone, my helper in he needful time; he has wrought all my works in me and for me, both to will and to do of his own good pleasure; he is a sufficient reward to all them that wait upon him. He is all in all; I have none beside him, he is all-sufficient, I am nothing but what I am in him, therefore he alone is to be praised. Glory is wholly due unto him, for it is he alone that has redeemed my soul from death, and has opened to me the way of life; he has taken my fetters from my legs, and has set my feet upon a sure foundation; he has brought me out of the prison house, and has set my soul in a pleasant place; he has plucked me like a brand out of the fire, and has given me strength above my enemies. He has redeemed my soul from death, and caused me to walk in the path of life. He has heard my sighing, and my groans were not unknown to him; the breathings of my soul has he regarded, and my heaviness has he turned into joy; yes, he has tenderly waited to be gracious to me, and his long-suffering has led to repentance. Oh! what shall I render to the Lord my Saviour, who has dealt so bountifully with me! My soul, bless you the Lord forever, and all that is within me praise his holy Name; for he has caused mercy to surround me. Oh the loving kindness of the Lord! all you that know him praise his Name! for his mercies endure forever. He has caused light to shine out of darkness, and manifested thereby those things which are reproved, to which light my heart is turned, resolving to turn away from my iniquities, and serve the Lord with reverence and holy fear. Now I know it was he, by his Word, that showed me my thoughts and the intent of my heart; although I was once ignorant of it, yet now am I assured it was his Word, which often called behind me, saying, This is the way, walk in it! He was still seeking to save me out of the enemy's power, though I then regarded him not. Nevertheless he pursued me, until at last my heart opened to receive him, who is now my beloved, and has given me to taste that God is good, whose goodness far exceeds all that this world can afford, praised be the name of the Lord! I have found the Pearl of great price, the one thing needful for my soul to know, and this is Christ within the hope of glory, the true way to the Father, who promised to be with his disciples to the end of the world. This is he whom we are to hear and obey in all things, for fear that we be cut off from among his people. This is the anointing which I have received of the Lord, that teaches all things, which is truth, and is no lie. Oh that the children of men would open their hearts, that the king of glory might enter in, to drive out that den of thieves, who rob them of that treasure and peace which passes their understanding, by which they would come to witness the Comforter, the Spirit of Truth, to lead them into all truth; for it is he who works all our works in us and for us. This is the Lord's doings, and it is marvelous in our eyes; to whom be praise and glory forever! My understanding being thus opened, I came clearly to perceive the word of God in my heart, which had wrought powerfully to my full convincement, and by it I knew I must be faithful to its requiring, if I would have peace; it giving me a true sight of my state, and how I should wait for salvation. Then I saw, to my great satisfaction, which caused joy to arise, that the despised Quakers were the people who worshipped God in the way he required, in Spirit and in Truth.
The next first-day I went to a meeting at Watlock, where the informers and officers had made very sad spoil, by taking away Friends' goods; yet many others as well as Friends came to the meeting. As soon as I came within sight of the house, I felt the Lord with me; I went in, and it was very full of people, and after some time I was moved to declare the testimony of Truth; and the presence of God was so gloriously manifest, that the people gave good attention, and were so affected, that the fear of man was much taken away. Being come to see, in the light of the Lord, through all things to my satisfaction, I went cheerfully to Friends' meetings, and was edified and comforted. The third meeting where I was, the power of the Lord came upon me, and I was pressed in spirit to declare of his goodness, but it was hard to give up; yet I dared not disobey, so I stood up and spoke to the congregation—abundance of Friends and others being met—what was given me to understand, concerning the creation of man, his dominion, work, state of innocence, fall, and restoration by the promised seed, Christ Jesus the Saviour of mankind; all which was to the great joy of Friends, and reaching of the people.
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