By John Banks
As the labors, travels, and exercises of our dear friend John Banks were great, both in doing and in suffering for the name of the Lord, I shall here give a relation of some part of them wherein I was present with him.
The first time I saw him was at a meeting at John Iveston's of Jerishtown in Cumberland in the latter end of the year 1672, or about the beginning of the year 1673, where there were many Friends and other people. It was a good meeting to the confirming of those who had lately received the truth in the love of it and the convincing others of the right way of the Lord.
The next meeting he had in our parts was at Edward Atkinson's of Masthorne. A great meeting it was and many received the truth in the love of it, and lived and died in it. Others were so reached that though they never took the profession of the truth upon themselves, yet they often manifested their love to truth and Friends to their dying day.
So effectually was the love of God manifested in that meeting that many tears were shed, by some for joy that the Gospel of glad tidings was so preached, and by others in a sense of godly sorrow for their misspent time. He had several meetings afterward nearer to the borders of Scotland and one at Parkrigg, in which several were convinced by him, and others being added, it is now become a settled meeting.
He was serviceable amongst us in word and doctrine, and very exemplary in life and conversation, so that I greatly loved him. He had also a share in government and the care of the churches was upon him, that they who professed the truth might walk answerably in their lives and conversations.
In the year 1679, our dear friend going to the Yearly Meeting at London for the county, and it being my lot to be his companion at that time, we met at Strickland in Westmoreland and visited some meetings in Yorkshire, Nottinghamshire, Leicestershire, Northamptonshire, and so to London. He had good service in most places, and much comfort and satisfaction I had in his company, he, whom I esteemed above many others, being a loving and a nursing father to me.
After we had stayed the time of the Yearly Meeting and he was clear of the meetings of the city, we went to a meeting at Windsor, and so to High Wycombe, Reading, Newbury, Marlborough, Calne, and Chippenham, and most of the meetings in those parts. It was a time of deep exercise to many faithful brethren who kept their habitations in the truth, for in most meetings of this part of the nation there was a rending, dividing spirit crept into the church, and many were made to say, "Alas, we know not which way to turn, or what will be the end."
I am a witness, with many more, some of whom are yet alive, of the deep exercise of spirit he went under from meeting to meeting for the Seed's sake, that the innocent might be preserved from hurt and the spirit of separation which would divide in Jacob and scatter in Israel might be fully manifested. Though his exercises were such night and day that his meat and sleep were almost taken from him, yet the Lord so strengthened him in his inward man that he was borne up in his spirit to confirm and build up the righteous in that most holy faith which works by love, and to proclaim woe and judgment upon the spirit that had led into separation. And though in several places, they who were most in the separation, followed him from meeting to meeting and bent their bows against him, waiting for an advantage, yet the Lord was pleased, for the honor of his own name, to preserve him by his power so that he came away to the churches' comfort and edification, and to his own peace.
After this, we came to Bristol and found faithful Friends under great exercise of spirit by reason of a contentious spirit that some there were gone into. We visited meetings thereabouts, and when our friend was clear and his service over, we came pretty direct for Cumberland.
As the labors and travels of this our dear friend were great for the truth's sake which he was called to bear witness to, so he was also valiant in suffering for it, as appeared in his imprisonment in Carlisle. It was my lot, with others of our meeting, to be committed to prison at that time for our peaceably meeting together to wait upon the Lord and to worship him in spirit and in truth. We found our dear friends, John Banks and Thomas Hall, separated from the rest of Friends who were prisoners and put into a dark place, called the citadel, among the felons, something like a dungeon, where they could not see to work in a dark day without candlelight, and for no other cause, but for preaching and praying in the time of Friends' meeting to wait upon the Lord in the place where they were confined. His persecutors hoped that by their being absent the meetings of Friends would be silent and give less occasion of disturbance to priests and others who took occasion against his preaching.
The first meeting we had amongst the Friends in prison, Andrew Graham and I appearing in public, the jailer was much disturbed and took us away from the rest of Friends and being afraid of the priests and others, he was at a stand what to do, for there was no room for any more beds among the felons. The bed whereon our dear friend lay was next to the sink where the filth was discharged, which made it the more noisome. But the Lord's power carried them over all, and in a few days I obtained liberty of the jailer to go with the turnkey, and found the Friends, through the Lord's goodness, easy and well. The turnkey returning, I stayed to bear them company till evening.
When the turnkey came again, he told John Banks that he and his companion might go to the rest of Friends, if they pleased, for it would avail nothing to keep them there, as there were now other preachers. John Banks replied that the jailer brought them thither without any just cause, and he should fetch them back again and cause what they had to be carried along with them, which he did before he slept.
Being now together in one place, we kept our meetings, First-day and week days, and the place of our confinement being near the upper end of Castle street and not far from the great cathedral, so called, it often happened that at the time when people came from their worship on the First-days, John was preaching and his voice would reach to the door of the great house. The people frequently would either go softly or stand a little, for at that time no meeting of Friends was kept in the city. And at this the priests were much disturbed and threatened the jailer so much that he left this place at the year's end and hired another house.
Our friend John Banks, being a good example in all things, labored diligently with his hands, being a glover and fell monger by trade, and with much sitting during that cold winter, in which the great frost continued so long, he thereby grew infirm. We were sixteen in one room and had the privilege of but one little fire. And mostly four or five ancient people had the benefit of it. But at last we all obtained our liberty, mostly by King James's proclamation, and came forth free and clear men, for which the Lord shall have the praise.
I could say more, but knowing that there are many faithful brethren and sisters who had a perfect knowledge of him and of his integrity from the time of his convincement to the day of his death, and of his many labors and exercises both at home and abroad, I am the more easy to conclude, being an eye and ear witness of what I have here written.