By John Banks
My wife's letter to me.
After long expectation to hear from thee, I have, before the writing hereof, received two letters whereby I was much satisfied and refreshed. But in thy last from Somersetshire I observe that thou hast been under weakness of body for some time. At the first hearing of this I was sad in my spirit, but considering the greatness and sufficiency of the Lord's love and power, in whom is our strength, I rest satisfied, hoping that all things will work for good in the end.
Dear husband, I have been and am brought very low in body by a strong fever, but am well in mind, blessed be the Lord therefor. It was one month last fifth-day since the sickness took me, and in about two weeks time I received some strength, but became worse again, and am very weak. I greatly desire this may come safe to thy hand, that thou mayest understand how it is with me and that, in the wisdom of God, thou mayest consider what may tend most for the glory of God in this matter.
I can truly say, in a sense of the Lord's love and truth, according to my measure, whether ever I see thy face again or no, I desire nothing more than that the will of the Lord may be done in all things, whether in life or death, to whose care and fatherly protection I commit and commend thee and dearly salute thee, with love to thy companion, J W, and bid thee farewell, and am thy dear and loving wife,
Whinfell-Hall in Cumberland, the 19th of the Fifth month, 1668.
From hence we traveled westward through part of Devonshire and into Dorsetshire, Hampshire, Wiltshire, and so up to London. The Lord was with us and Friends were greatly refreshed and comforted with us, and we with them.
Great openness and tenderness there was in those days among Friends, and many other people where we came, and the witness of God was soon reached. We had very large and full meetings in most places where we traveled, and many were convinced and are yet alive, standing witnesses for God.
At London, I wrote to my wife as follows:
Thine I have received, whereby I understand the great weakness thou hast been in, which hath been a near trial and great exercise to me. But when I consider the large love of God to thee in preserving thee in faith to believe in him, and patience and true contentedness to give up unto him, under thy great weakness, it hath eased my burden and lessened my exercise.
Wait daily to feel the Lord to be thy strength in the time of thy greatest weakness. Rely wholly upon him, trust in him, believe in him, and he will never fail thee. He can be more to thee than a husband, and to thy child than her father. Mayest thou know thy portion increased in Him and thy inheritance to be enlarged, that thou mayest dwell in the borders of his sanctuary, in the sight of his glorious Son for evermore. And mayest thou feel thy faith to increase, and thy patience and contentedness to remain in him, by the sufficiency of whose power, safety and preservation is known. As we abide in Him, whether we live or die, we are the Lord's, and it shall be well with us for evermore, world without end. And it is no matter what we suffer or undergo in this life if that be attained unto.
Remember my dear and tender love, and also my duty, to my parents, for still I find myself bound to be tender over them and to do what in me lies for them, under the consideration of what they have done for me. With the salutation of my true love to thyself, in the remembrance of our little one, and my love to Friends and relations and neighbors, I remain thy loving husband,
And now Peter Fearon, my apprentice, mark and take good notice what I say to thee. Lay it to heart and consider well now in my absence. My true and unfeigned love is to thee, and I desire thy prosperity and welfare in all which is good, both inwardly and outwardly, but first of all and chiefly in that which appertains to the salvation of thy soul, the way whereof the Lord in his love hath in some measure made manifest unto thee.
Therefore be watchful to walk in it, that is to say, take heed to the light of Christ Jesus in thee, the measure of the Spirit of Truth, which will lead thee into all truth and out of all deceit, as thou dost obey and follow the same. Whatever this pure light in thee maketh manifest to be evil and reproveth thee for, depart thou from it. If it be that which no eye can see, nor no one knows of, yet thou must forsake it. Wait and watch daily against it in the light that makes it manifest and thou wilt receive power to cast it off and depart from it.
The light, which is Christ Jesus, the way, the truth, and the life, teacheth to be sober and lowly-minded, our words to be few and savory, gentle and easy to be entreated, not to be high-minded, but fear the living God continually. This keeps the heart clean. And as it is abode in, low and humble in self-denial, and willing to take up and bear the daily cross, and as this takes place in the heart, such thereby come to depart from iniquity.
All things that are reproved are made manifest by the light, and whatsoever makes manifest is light. And that which the light makes manifest to be sin and evil, in word or action, thou must forsake and deny thyself in, for this is the will and mind of the Lord, by his blessed Spirit. And he that knoweth his master's will and doeth it not, according to the Scriptures of truth, must he beaten with many stripes.
As to things appertaining to thy work and service, be patient and content, and go quietly about thy business in the fear of God. And say not in thyself that I will think thou hast not done enough, for it is far from me so to think. Only my desire is, if thou do ever so little, be careful to do it well. But, above all things, be truly willing and obedient unto thy mistress, for whatsoever thou doest to her, I take it as done to myself. And mind to carry thyself in love and to be a good example in my family, that so you may all live in love and unity together, in which the Lord preserve you all.
Thy loving master,
From Whitechapel in London, the 3rd day of the Sixth month, 1668.
We traveled in the work and service of the Lord from London, through those counties before named, again to Bristol where we were greatly comforted in the Lord in truth's prosperity with other of the brethren we met with there, where I wrote the following letter to my wife.
I received thine at Bristol, which was cause of great refreshment and satisfaction unto me because of thy recovery from thy sickness, which I should be glad to know doth continue. I cannot give thee a certain account of my return home at present. The day this letter was written in Bristol, we set our faces towards our own country, having been to the end of our journey at this time for anything we know. But how long we may be in coming home I know not, for great is the work which the Lord hath to do, and is doing, and the laborers are not many, considering the greatness thereof. Blessed are they that are faithful therein, though ever so little, for if they continue unto the end, they shall not lose their reward.
Greatly doth the truth of our God prosper and increase, to the encouragement of the faithful, and many are they who have a good desire to know the way thereof in most places wherever we have come. Meetings are very large, peaceable, and quiet almost everywhere, and a great calm there now is. What will be the end thereof, the Lord knoweth.
We have had a sweet and precious time all along in our journey, blessed be the Lord for the same, who hath been pleased to bless our weak endeavors for the good of his people and our great comfort and satisfaction in him.
I am thy dear and loving husband,
Bristol, the Seventh month, 1668.
We traveled through the nation homeward, and at the end of six months from the time of our going forth, we got well there with sheaves in our bosoms for our faithfulness in our Lord and Master's work which we had freely and faithfully performed through the ability of his power. And we were very careful to give way one to the other in our testimony that so we might be preserved in unity and fellowship together, as we were to the end of our journey, everlasting praises, honor, and glory be given unto the Lord alone, for he is eternally worthy! The length of this journey was twelve hundred and sixty-eight miles.
I do not intend nor desire to make a great volume or to give a full account of my journeys in England, Scotland, and Ireland, but in as much brevity as I can, I want to notice what may be most material.
I have traveled and gone over sea between England, Scotland, and Ireland, twelve times, and often not without great difficulty and danger of life by many tempestuous storms. Yet I was never at any time above two nights together at sea, insomuch that when I have taken shipping at Whitehaven, the seamen would be very desirous who should have me in their vessel, saying that I was the happiest man that ever they carried over sea, for they always got well along when they had me, though sometimes through great tempests. That God over all may have the praise of his own works and that the faithful be encouraged to rely upon the sufficiency of his power for ever is the intent of my writing.
With reverence, humility, and godly fear I may say that my labors and travels in these nations, in preaching the everlasting Gospel in the demonstration of the Spirit with which the Lord was pleased to attend me, though through many exercises, both without and within, perils at sea, robbers by land, bad spirits and false brethren, yet notwithstanding all these, I may say without boasting, I have been made instrumental to turn many unto righteousness, a considerable number of whom are yet alive to witness to the truth of what I say. In my native county in Cumberland, and also in many places elsewhere, it is well known to Friends with what diligence I labored among them in the work of the Gospel, early and late, far and near, through much hardship to my body, in heat and cold. And yet, through the strength and ability given me of God, I was preserved in and through all, having faith therein. And with all diligence when I was at home, I labored with my hands with honest endeavors and lawful employments for the maintenance of my family.
About the beginning of the year 1670 was the first time I went for Ireland, and our ancient friend John Tiffin, having drawings thither also, we took shipping at Whitehaven and landed at Carrickfergus in the north of that nation, for the north was most before us. And after we had visited meetings thoroughly and were well satisfied in our service, we visited Friends along to Dublin, and thereabout. And having had good and refreshing times with Friends in that city and elsewhere, and being clear, we returned to our own country.
It was not long until the Lord required of me to go to Ireland again and in the third month, 1671, I was made willing to go, in obedience to the requirings of the Lord, and his presence was with me. My desire was to be at the Half-year's meeting at Dublin, which began the fifth-day of the week. I went to Whitehaven the Third-day before with intent to take shipping there; and my dear wife and several friends went along with me. But the wind that day was quite contrary, so that my wife and friends would have persuaded me to go home again, being ten miles, because the wind was not likely to serve. But I told them I could not then. I must rely upon him who had power to command the wind and seas, even the Lord alone.
They went home, and I went that evening to a vessel which was ready to go and told the owner I was willing to go with him to Dublin and I desired some of his men, if the wind was fair ere the morning to call me at such a house. They answered yes, with all their heart, but they asked if I thought the wind would serve so soon, that was now so contrary. I said that it was possible with the Lord that it might, for I had faith in the thing, according to what was revealed to me.
About the dawning of the day, being Fourth-day morning, one came calling aloud to me to make haste and come soon, the wind was fair and the ship nearly ready to sail. We had a ready passage so that according to my desire, I got to the meeting aforesaid on Fifth-day, within half an hour after it was set. And a glorious heavenly meeting it was, where many faithful brethren from all parts of the nation came. And the Lord's power was over all, and several living testimonies given to show forth the greatness and sufficiency thereof. Wherefore we had cause of rejoicing in the prosperity of the Lord's work and our unity and brotherly fellowship one with another.
Next day, in the evening, as I was waiting upon the Lord, a great weight came upon my spirit, under which exercise I patiently abode until it opened in me that I was to go southward to a place called Wicklow, though I knew it not then, being twenty-four miles south from Dublin, where no meeting of Friends before that time had been that I could hear of, and only one or two friendly people in it. But before I went, I wrote the following letter to my wife:
That nearness of love I still feel in my heart towards thee is beyond what I can express. Yet I find an engagement upon me to show forth the same in some expressions at this time. It is in my heart to say unto thee, my dear, be steadfast in thy mind and in the lowliness thereof watch and wait, to be preserved near to the Lord. So wilt thou feel thy peace and unity to increase with him and his people, and assuredly with me, thy husband, in whose work and service, which is weighty,
I am concerned and the prosperity thereof is become my chiefest joy and delight and for which I am willing and in measure able, through the goodness of the Lord unto me, to spend and be spent, may he have the praise, honor, and glory returned to him who is worthy for ever, whose the work is and who is mighty by his own power for carrying on the same.
My dear one, my daily cry and secret breathings are to the Lord for thee that thou mayest be preserved in faithfulness to him, even to what thou knowest of him made manifest by his pure light in thee, by which the enemy, with all his cunning and subtlety, and reasoning which darkens, is discovered, and the outgoings of the mind judged. And the power received by waiting in the light brings all things into good order, both within and without.
Be of good cheer, for my soul dearly loves thee, and in my heart thou art written not to be forgotten, together with our dear babes, whom it greatly tenders my heart to think of. The Lord preserve you all in the bosom of his love, who can be more to thee and thine than I ever can be. Into his fatherly protection I commit thee, with myself and all that we enjoy, to be ordered and preserved. It is but reasonable he should have all offered up unto him. For what we are and what we have, we are by him and have received from him, that he may have the praise of all, who is eternally worthy, God blessed for ever. Amen.
By this thou, with Friends, may know that I am well every way and have had comfortable and good service among Friends and friendly people in this city where there is great need of faithful laborers, yea, even all over this nation because many are inquiring the way to Zion. Wherefore God's faithful servants are concerned to visit city and country, that the gathered may be established, and they that are not yet gathered may be brought in.
I came to this city on the Fifth-day, where we had a heavenly meeting, and on Sixth-day evening as I was waiting upon the Lord, an exercise came upon my spirit and it opened in me that I was to go to a place southward to have a meeting next First-day. I knew of no place where any meeting had been kept, but the exercise remained weighty upon me. So I inquired of Friends if they knew of any meeting kept that way next First-day, but none could tell me of any. At last I told William Edmundson of my exercise and he named Wicklow to me, and an answer was in me that that was the place I was to go to, being twenty-four miles off, where a meeting had never been before, of which hereafter.
So I rest thy loving husband,
Dublin in Ireland, the 22nd of the Third month, 1671.
One of the friendly men I have mentioned, being a carpenter, was willing Accordingly I went on Seventh-day, and two Friends with me, and gave word that I intended to have a meeting in that town next day, being the first-day of the week. The report going forth that an English Quaker was come to preach, there was a mighty noise of it in the place, the people being stirred up by the priest. The governor, one Hammond, lived at the castle, a garrison of soldiers being kept there, and the priest labored much with the governor beforehand, as I was told, to put me in prison.
to let us have the benefit of his workhouse to meet in, there being several Friends and friendly people come out of the country. And as I was ready to go from the inn where we lodged, the landlady said to me, "For God's sake, go not along the street, for there is a guard of musketeers waiting at the cross to take you. I will show you a back way."
I said, "I accept of thy love, but I must not go any private way, but along the town street, for I have a testimony to bear for the Lord in this town in love to the souls of people." So by the time we were well seated in the place as aforesaid, before my mouth was opened, there came a sergeant with a halbert and a guard of musketeers with him. The sergeant said that I must go along with him before the governor.
I answered, "What authority hast thou to take me? If thou hast a warrant so to do, I shall go."
He held out his halbert, and said, "This is my warrant."
I said, "You need not have come to us with your swords and guns, as those who came against Christ with swords and staves. We are known to be a peaceable people. Howbeit I shall go with thee."
They took me to a house where the priest, his wife, the governor, his man, and some more were collected. The priest, being in a rage when I came in, said to the governor, "Sir, this is the deceiver. This is the deluder who is come from England to delude people here. I hope you will do justice and execute the law."
The governor being pretty moderate said nothing for some time, but walked to and fro, being in a large room. And the people being in an uproar pressed in at the door. I was willing to let the priest rage on a time till he had vented himself so that he might be the more manifest to the people. At last, I said to him, "Thou sayest that I am a deceiver and a deluder."
He answered in fury, "So thou art. So thou art."
But I said, "Have patience and let thy moderation appear unto all men and hear what I have to say to clear myself from thy false accusation, for I shall not take thy assertion for proof. I have had patience to hear thee. Art thou a minister of Christ?"
"Yes," said he, "I am."
I replied, "But if I prove thee a liar, as by the witness of this people thou art, in charging me with that of which thou canst bring no proof, thou art out of the doctrine of Christ and so no minister of Christ, but of antichrist and of thy father the devil. And therefore thou art the deceiver and the deluder of the people."
Upon this the priest's mouth was stopped, and he made to get out at the door, but the people were so thronged that he could not. Then I turned to the people, "You hear," said I, "that your minister hath charged me without proof that I am a deceiver and a deluder. Did you ever see my face before or did you ever hear me speak before now? Which of you, or who have I deceived or deluded?"
But they were all silent. Some more words I spoke to manifest to the people, that their minister was no minister of Christ, according to the holy Scriptures. At this the priest cried out to the governor, "I pray you, sir, take him away. I hope you sent not for him to let him preach here."
All this time the governor was silent, and I was declaring God's everlasting truth to the people. At last the priest's wife said to the governor, "I pray you, sir, let him not preach here. Commit him to jail," it being near by and the jailer present. Then the governor spoke to me, in answer to the priest's wife's request, and said, "I am here in place to do justice in executing the law which you have broken in coming to this town to keep an unlawful meeting and conventicle in the time of Divine service."
I said that I knew no such service performed in the town, neither did I understand that I had broken any law. "How can it be that I and my friends have broken the law, who were not found preaching, reading, praying, or performing any exercise that is looked upon to be worship to God. We were only met in a peaceable manner in silence, waiting upon, worshiping, and serving the Lord our God in spirit and in truth."
"It is no matter," said the governor, "what you pretend. You were met, as before I have said, and I must commit you to jail. Jailor, take him away."
A Friend, newly convinced, spoke some few words to the priest, about his accusing me falsely and the priest's wife said, "Sir, commit that man too," which he did. Another friendly man also speaking to the priest, his wife said again to the governor, "I pray you, sir, commit that man too," and so he did.
We three were committed to prison, the priest standing all the while silent and trembling still. And when we came forth of the house, there was a great multitude of people, and the jailer said to us, "Come after me," (he lived above stairs, and the prisoners were underneath). He took us into a room beyond his own dwelling, which was pretty large, and the people came in and filled up our room, the jailer's, and a part in the third, and the jailer hindered none.
In a little time my mouth was opened in the demonstration of the power and Spirit of God, and I preached the way of life and salvation to the people in and through Jesus Christ his Son, by believing in his pure light and walking answerably to the teachings of his grace and the reproofs of his Holy Spirit, by which they might receive power to become the sons of God and to strengthen the faith of those who believed therein.
It was a blessed day for the Lord and his truth, for his heavenly power broke in upon many, and several were convinced and received the truth in the love of it. And many made confession thereunto and told the priest that they were satisfied by what they had heard me speak that I was no such man as he said I was and that we were not the people he had persuaded them to believe.
The truth was cleared from his aspersions, by which the witness of God was reached in peoples' consciences, and they would not let the priest alone till they got him to promise that he would dispute with me, he having boasted that if he might but have the opportunity to manifest that deceiver, he would. The hour was set next morning by eight o'clock. They agreed that I was to go to the priest's house, and the jailer with me, who said before we did go, " I thank you, Mr. Banks, for the good sermon you have preached to us, for our minister never preached us such a one in his time, and I believe you are no such man as he said you were."
Before the hour came the priest broke his word, for instead of staying to dispute with me, he made it his business timely in the morning to go to the sheriff about two miles off to tell him what a numerous meeting the jailer had suffered to be in the county jail, above stairs, such an one as never was in the county itself. And, said the priest, "I entreat you, sir, either take some course in time or else I fear all the town of Wicklow will be Quakers, and then there will be no abiding for me."
A sober man being present made it his business to come and tell me and the jailer, and that the sheriff said that if he had known it, the utmost door of the house should have been shut against us all and we kept there till we had been delivered by due course of law. He also said to the priest, "If the jailor, or any other, suffer the like again, come and inform me and I shall take a course with them."
When the news came to the jailer, who was a man of a pretty noble spirit, " What," said he, " have I been a jailer eight years and know not what belongs to my place? So that I have my prisoners when there is occasion for them, I'll set my doors open, and they shall go and come who will." And accordingly he did so while I was there, which was but three days, he keeping a public house.
During the time I was there, as I remember, except when I was in bed, I was scarcely one hour without some people coming to see me and discourse with me about the principles of religion so that I was sorry for nothing but that I had no longer time there, the truth having prevailed so much upon the people and begotten true love in them to it in so little time. Everlasting praises unto the Lord alone, whose the work is, and by his own power he is the carrier on and manager of it.
In a little time, the jailer, with some others of the town who persuaded him to it, when the priest had failed and broken his word so that his own people even hissed at him, agreed to speak to the governor to have me brought before him. He told him that they did believe I was an honest man, and they would have him let me go out of prison. He bid the jailer bring me up next morning to his chamber, being the Third-day, at eight of the clock and he would examine me, seeing the priest had failed.
Accordingly, with the two Friends committed with me, I was brought before him and in great moderation the governor reasoned with me for about an hour about our manner of meeting, and the worship of God, and what we believed concerning Christ, and of honor to men in authority, all which was cleared to his satisfaction. He confessed to the truth of what I spoke and said he was satisfied with the answers that I had given him, and asked what I would have him to do for me. Being I was the first of our people he ever had to do with, he would willingly let me go if he could be clear and answer the law.
I told him that it was my liberty that I desired and prized and I believed it was in his power to set me and my friends at liberty. He said, he believed well concerning me, and thought I was an honest man, so if I would promise him to appear at the assize or sessions, when there was occasion, or get any that he knew to do it for me, I should have my liberty. I told him that I neither could do it myself, nor desire another to do it for me. "Well," said he, "if you will promise me you will never come to keep any more meetings at Wicklow, I will let you go."
I answered, "I cannot do that. But if I do and if thou hast power so to do, thou mayest put me in prison again, and I believe I shall be as willing to suffer then, as now."
So he set us all at liberty, and said to me, "God keep you in the mind you are now in, for I think you are in a good mind."
So I took leave of him, and said, "Governor, fare thee well. And in so saying, I truly desire thy welfare, both of thy body and soul."
We came down with the jailer to his house, and I said to him, "Now that we have our liberty, we may take our leave of thee."
"Yes," said he, "and pay me my fees."
"Fees," said I, "what is that?"
"Oh," said he, "it seems you never have been prisoner before."
"Yes," said I, "I have."
"And," said he, "did you never pay fees?"
I answered, "No."
He replied, "Well, being you are the first that ever I had in my custody of your people, I will not keep you because the governor is pleased to set you at liberty. But if any more of you come here, I will put you in the dungeon if you will not pay fees."
"Well," said I, "we must leave that to what time will bring forth." So he gave us our liberty, and we called for drink to give him, he keeping ale to sell. We also had some victuals of his wife and laid in his beds, for I saw our time was like to be so short that we made no provision for ourselves. So, in consideration of these things, when we came away, each of us gave the jailer twelve pence, with which he seemed to be well pleased.
I went to Dublin again where Friends were glad to see me, and we were refreshed together in the enjoyment of the Lord's presence. From thence we traveled into the north, visiting Friends, where the Lord hath a good people. From there I sent the following letter to my wife.
The truth of our God is exceedingly precious, and very desirable, blessed be his name for evermore, who hath made us sensible of the same to the gladdening of our hearts. I feel true unity with thee therein, and it is cause of comfort to me in all my travels and exercises for the Lord and his truth's sake that thou drawest with me in true subjection and with a willing mind under his yoke to the end that his will may be done by us. Oh! that we may carefully keep here, for then surely great will be our reward if we continue unto the end, for great is and shall be the reward of the faithful.
Having been this day at a very large, precious meeting where many people besides Friends were present, I have not time to write what I would, and partly because of the haste of the bearer. But in a word, I am well and the Lord is with me. And I am freely given up and made willing to follow him.
Since I came from Dublin, I have visited Friends' meetings and been into the Scot's country, as it is called, where I had the company of three Friends, but George Grigson hath been more with me than any other Friend in the ministry. After the next First-day's meeting, which is the Province Meeting kept every six weeks near Lurgan, I intend, if the Lord will, to go towards Dublin again, and it may be three weeks ere I get there. When I am clear of that city, as the Lord makes way, I intend for Wicklow, Wexford, Clonmell, Tallow, Youghall, and so on to Cork and the West where the Lord is bringing forth a people, notwithstanding all Zion's enemies and opposers.
Truly may I say, as being an eye-witness, the harvest is very great in this nation. Oh! that the Lord would be pleased to fit and prepare and send forth more laborers into it.
Farewell, my dear wife, with my sweet babes.
Near Lurgan, in the North of Ireland, the 21st of the Fourth month, 1671.