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TO 66 THE MEMBERS” OF THE SOCIETY OF FRIENDS, IN LIVERPOOL,
Whom I love in the Truth.
M y soul being particularly exercised last fifth day,* not only with the discourse then delivered (by a certain esteemed itinerant minister, whom I shall hereafter mention more particularly) but also from a few words at the dismission of the audience I cannot refrain from troubling you with the result, and the effect which it had on my mind. My remarks in this letter will principally be confined to the latter, namely,
“The Members of this Society are desired to keep “their seats, and those who are not will be pleased “ to withdraw.”—At this salutation, my soul being just emerged from deep exercise, with a mixture of astonishment and confusion, I paused a few moments, not deciding which of the two to do. The sequel will explain.
Here I found myself (for the first time of this nature) deeply wounded. Not that I regarded it as an
* A day on which few, if any, attend, but those who are zealously affected with Friends' principles; apd but few of
insult to my person, because I am of no note amongst the rich and great ones of the earth (though I might boast of no mean ancestors); I am small and of no reputation; not an insult to my classical education, because I have had but little, and am of slender capacity; which the learned, should this fall into their hands, will readily perceive: not an insult to my acquired knowledge and wisdom of this world; this, it is the desire of my soul to make subservient at the foot of the cross: nay, but an insult-they could not have offered a greater, to the tender and zealous affected " convinced persons;”--to your own beautiful, sublime, and most holy profession of religious worshippers, that membership, the unity of souls in spiritual worshipping. These not members of this Society! These desired to “ withdraw!" from what? -Your worthy predecessor, Robert Barclay, I believe, would have been more wary how he dismissed
those, in general. A time of day, also, which some say is “unreasonable,” as well as “ Unseasonable !" But more on this forthcoming.
Before I proceed in the above, I feel desirous to say a few words respecting the interval between the circumstances which gave rise to this work, and the time when it was actually sent to the press ---a space of about six months; the last two months of which were occupied in canvassing for subscribers, and collecting subscriptions, to defray the expenses of priuling, &c. The reader will not, I conceive, think the time long, when he is apprised that nearly 'the whole of the manuscript was twice written, chiefly at night, after I had performed my daily occupation.--- Yes; in that part of the night, when“ all nature,” as it were, “ hushed into silence,".." the foot of man and beast commanded to tread softly !".-- then did I find myself “all wakeful and solitary."
the members at such a time. At least, surely, he did not at a religious meeting at Herweden !"*
Yes, it struck a damp on my soul, as it were; at least it quenched the Spirit; and I not only began to feel a little ashamed at the company with which my soul had then been, I thought, associated; but, further, it was like a cutting off.”—Excommunication ! do I say? like an expulsion from heaven !-Oh! the many thoughts which ran through my mind on this “ trivial” incident, as I am aware some may call it: but I wish such to take care what they call “trivial,” and “small things.” So deeply did this affect me that it was with difficulty (if I may so say that I performed the remaining part of my daily occupation. Yea, at night, or rather morning (which is oftener my time of retiring to rest), I could scarcely sleep, but watered my pillow with my tears: as many times before, Friends—“ the members” have caused me to do. Yes, my nocturnal tears (past two o'clock) now profusely strew the page while I pen this.
· I shall not trouble you with all the particulars in my soliloquy or retirement, on this “ so trivial,” yet important matter; it may suffice to mention the heads, or a few of them. What, ah my soul! a member of the mystical and not of the corporeal (or material)? in unity of spirit, and not of the same body corporate! known of Christ, but not known by his
• “ The residence of” the convinced " Elizabeth the Princess Palatine," and where other great folks assembled.--- See account of his life, travels to Holland, &c. p. 50. 1.
people on earth! Mystery, impenetrable mystery, surely! I thought, just before (at the meeting alluded to) I had been one sex, or member, as a certain poet thus beautifully expresses it:
..---------“ and sex, In holy raptures, sex unite !"
I thought (and I believe with some others then present) I had met with the Lord, by his ministering servant (this itenerant) in the sanctuary (agreeable to the desire of my exercised soul, before I came into the assembly) nearly expressly, as the high-priest did in the church of old on the Urim, when he went into the holy of holies with his breast plate on, to obtain an answer by consulting God! Yes, this ministering servant of Jesus Christ, at that time acknowledged that “he could not say by what cause, for what reason, or for whom he was thus particularly led to speak!” But, ah my soul! thou art desired to "withdraw" from the secret services in the cause of thy beloved.-I did presume !
And these words of the apostle Paul, I think, crossed my mind—“ We have an altar whereof they (the idolatrous which serve the tabernacle) have no right to eat.” On which I was thus exercised-ah me! my soul! hast thou not spiritually eat and drank at the Lord's table, in his presence, with his people yea, farther, my soul! hath the Father and the Son come unto thee and supped with thee?-hast thou wept and mourned, watched, and inwardly prayed with his people, for thyself and for them so many years, and now desired (for I could not "be pleased”)
to “ withdraw” thyself from their secret assembly! Ah, my soul ! is there any thing which these people can have in hand, or at heart, in the cause of truth, of which thou hast not been willing and ready to bear thy part of the burthen? Hast not thou been not only desirous, but “made willing” in the day of trial, to forsake all ?-all that stood in the way to follow Christ, and to take up thy daily cross?
I have kept nothing back which I believed the Lord required me to give up. Not my occupation in life, my trade, as a master; nor shall I; I trust, follow it as a servant, (though the daily support of my wife and family seems to depend upon it), unless I can enjoy full liberty of conscience, purely religious. Even my beloved wife, (though she has been, and now is, at times, a sore persecutor of—), nor my dear helpless children, could not prevail in the case of the former. Could I see the call clear, I am ready, --I trust I shall be “made willing” also in that day to take my final farewell of my wife and family, my all, and follow my Divine Master, whithersoever he may lead me! Yes, literally cloath myself in sackcloth ; not soft raiment, of which some of you appear so fond.
* I wish just to observe here, first, that I feel a pleasure, as well as confidence, that I am writing to a Society who “despise not the day of small things.” It is true, we find some of the great and wise ones of the earth admit “every single observation that is published by a man of genius, be it ever so trivial, should be esteemed of importance; because he speaks from his own impressions;" whereas, “common men,”