LIFE OF THOMAS ALDAM
Thomas Aldam (1616-1660) was one of the earliest converts of George Fox in the county of York. His mother, wife, and two sisters, were all convinced about the same time, in the year 1651. His residence was at Warmsworth, near Doncaster, where he was born in 1616. The year following his convincement by Fox, he was imprisoned at York castle for two and one half years, the first of many Quakers imprisoned there. While imprisoned, he wrote many papers which were published. Some of his descendants were still Quakers as late as 1905. There is little record of his writings still available, so this web page is very short; but in no way should be construed, that he also was a true worthy of the Lord, serving him with great dedication and zeal, with great effect.
Previous to his knowledge of George Fox, he appears to have been a man religiously disposed, and was very attached to some of the ministers of that day; probably those called Puritans, who at that time, having overturned Episcopacy, took possession of the places of public worship and the livings of their predecessors.
With these, however, he became dissatisfied, for he aspired after a greater degree of spiritual light and purity than he had yet met with. Such was his condition, when George Fox came into the neighborhood of his residence, through whose ministry he was effectually turned from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto God.
The doctrine of the Divine Light, or the Spirit of Christ illuminating the soul, and opening to it the way of life and salvation, was readily acknowledged by him; through which he was drawn from a dependence on his former teachers, separated from the ways of the world, and qualified to bear a living testimony to the Truth, inviting others to "taste and see how good the Lord is."
In his ministerial labors, he was not only exercised in the meetings of Friends, but often attended the public places of worship, where he was frequently concerned to speak of the things of God, and at times to testify against the conduct both of the priests and people. He was thus engaged at Warmsworth, Hatfield, Wickersley, Edlington, Tickhill, Bawtry, Thorne, Handsworth, Rossington, and Pontefract. In almost all these places he met with very rude, severe treatment; but at Thorne, when the priest ordered the constable to "take out that rude and uncivil fellow, who came in so uncivilly and made a disturbance;" the constable being of a different spirit from the priest, replied: "He disturbs no man, nor does any man harm." After the priest had finished his sermon, Thomas Aldam preached to the people. Some of the rude sort, following the example of their priest, reviled him; and, not content with words, proceeded to blows, both with their hands and feet; and they even spit upon him, turning him out of their church, as they called it. However, this was a rather favorable example of the treatment, which he generally met with on these occasions.
About the year 1652, in consequence of a concern of this kind at Warmsworth, he was committed to York Castle by justices Darcy Wentworth, John Copley, George Byard, and Thomas Westby. It is likely he was the first Friend who was imprisoned in that place for his religious principles, and he was continued a prisoner about two and a half years; during which time he was not only prevented from visiting his family, but his wife and relatives frequently were not allowed to visit him.
During this long confinement, he was brought to trial before Judge Parker; but Thomas Aldam declined from conscientious motives to pay the judge the usual compliment of removing his hat, and he addressed him as thee instead of you. The judge issued some strong lectures on his conduct, fined him forty pounds, and committed him to prison with an order that he should be kept close prisoner till he paid the fine; but, on application to Oliver Cromwell, an order was given for his liberation. He bore his sufferings with much patience, under a sense of the Lord's goodness to him; and had many opportunities of religious service, and of remonstrating with the judges and justices, on the cruelties which they imposed on an innocent people.
Besides this imprisonment, he also suffered many seizures of his property for not paying tithes and other ecclesiastical demands. So great was the enmity of the priest of Warmsworth, that after all of Aldam’s cows had been taken from him, and he had borrowed one of a relatives cows to supply his family with milk, the cruel priest threatened to take that away also. This priest, however, was reduced to poverty, his own children prodigally spending his property, and he himself died suddenly.
Though Thomas Aldam was a great sufferer, both in body and property, on account of his religious principles, his concerns were not confined to himself, but were extended to his suffering Friends in various parts of the nation. He visited them in the prisons, traveling through much of England, Scotland, and Ireland; and bringing attention to the authorities of their distressing situations. It was on one of these occasions, when applying to Oliver Cromwell for relief, that he took off his cap before the Protector, and tore it to pieces, saying: "So shall your government be torn from you and your house." This prophecy was fulfilled just before he died in 1660.
In his last illness, he experienced much inward support and resignation to the event. At one time he felt his strength so renewed, that he thought he could go to London, if required; but soon added: "I am clear of the blood of all men. I feel nothing to this man," meaning King Charles II, who had just been restored to the crown. The day before he died, he called his children together, and after giving them some advice, took his leave of them, and the next day resigned his soul into the hands of his Creator.
From the character I find given of this Friend, he appears to have been possessed of many excellent qualities. He was a man of great courage and firmness of mind, and being; fully dedicated to the service of God and the support of his religious principles, he labored and suffered much in that day of violence and persecution. While his testimony was sharp against evil-doers, he was very tender towards those in whom he discovered sincere desires towards God and the knowledge of his Truth. He was a man of universal charity, manifesting a disposition to do good unto all men, and thus showing forth the praise of Him who had called him out of darkness into his marvelous light.
In his own family, to use the words of his son, "He was often very broken hearted, watching over his children in the fear of the Lord. And when I remember the fervency of spirit which attended him, and how, when he was going to take a journey on Truth's account, he would call his wife and children, and in great tenderness and humility bow his knees before the Lord, and pour out his supplications unto Him, desiring earnestly that the Lord might go with him, and committing us into his keeping; and what brokenness of heart was among us at such times, and how the love of God did abound. Then can my soul say, those were precious seasons, and are not to be forgotten by us; but to be recorded to posterity, that we may tell our children, and they also may declare, when we are gone, how good the Lord has been to his people, and what great cause they have to love Him, and put their trust in Him; that so his name may be renowned among our families, so long as they shall have a being."
It has already been noticed that Thomas Aldam's mother, wife, and two sisters, were all convinced by George Fox. Of the mother we find no further notice. His wife survived him only about three months: she was a religious woman, "of a very meek and quiet spirit, given up in all things to God's disposal."
His two sisters, Margaret Kellam and Joan Kellam, continued faithful to the convictions they had received, and were both serviceable women in the Society. Margaret traveled much in Truth's service, and many were convinced by her. She suffered imprisonment in several places, as Exeter, Banbury, and York. "Great," says her nephew, " was the boldness that did attend her, in sounding forth the truth, in the streets, steeple-houses, and marketplaces, and to the heads and rulers of the people; and the Lord was with her. She finished her course in the faith, signifying to a near relative, before her departure, the great peace she enjoyed with the Lord, and the clearness of conscience she had before him." She died in the year 1672. Joan Kellam died in the year 1681, having been a very useful woman, and of much religious experience, by which she became as a mother in Israel, and a tender sympathizer with those who were in a state of suffering, whether in body or in mind.
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