By John Banks
In my return after ten weeks it came upon me that I must go to Wicklow again. And when I came to Dublin, there was a letter from Wicklow, informing that the people desired another meeting and that the sergeant who took me before the governor was willing we should meet in his house. The priest hearing thereof threatened him and he was afraid so that when I and Friends came there the man durst not let us meet in his house.
We got another house, but it would not contain all that came. Yet there we met, and it was a blessed, heavenly, peaceable meeting without any disturbance at all, praises unto the most high God, who has all power in his own hand, and thereby can do whatsoever seems good in his eyes, notwithstanding the determination of wicked and ungodly men.
Not long after, so soon as the priest had an opportunity, he began to prosecute and imprison Friends for tithes and such like things and got several put in prison who came to visit that place. But the truth prospered so much the more and a meeting of God's people was set up in that town, and continueth.
From Dublin, before I went to Wicklow the second time, I wrote the following letter to my wife:
In the nearness of that love which remaineth in my heart without change I write unto thee. And my prayers are to the Lord for thee, and all with thee, that you may all live in love and in the fear of God. So will all go well and be kept in good order, both within and without.
My dear heart, as the Lord has been pleased to work a willingness in thee to give up and part with me freely for his name and Gospel's sake, have thine eye to the recompense of reward, even peace with him. And treasure it up in thy bosom, that it may be thy everlasting portion when time here shall be no more.
The breathing of my soul is for thee, as for myself, for he hath made us one. The Lord preserve thee unto the end in faithfulness to do his will, that thou mayest be kept in true unity and fellowship with his people in keeping to meetings on First-day and the weekday. Neglect no opportunity that may make for the good of thy soul, and then nothing for the body will be wanting. Exercise thyself in his law written in thy heart, that so thou mayest feel the streams of his love in thy inward part. Let truth be the girdle of thy loins, and faithful waiting in his light, thy dwelling so that although we be far separated as to the outward, we may be made witnesses more and more of the joy of his salvation therein and partakers of that peace which the world can neither take nor give.
Thou and my dear children are so near and dear unto me that many times the remembrance of you draws tears from me. For the farther I am separated from you, the nearer you are unto me in spirit. And at this time my heart is broken into tenderness, being sensible, according to the exercise which attends me, that the Lord will yet draw me farther from you who knows my heart, that if I might tomorrow with clearness return to thee, oh, how gladly would I embrace it!
But truly, my dear, the Lord requires of me, and I cannot forbear to give some hint thereof, that after I am clear of this nation, I must go for the West of England. From Cork I intend to take shipping for Minehead in Somersetshire, and so further, as the Lord is pleased to order me when I come into that nation. Truly the harvest is great in most places; and as the Lord hath been pleased to count me worthy to be called and sent forth into his work and service amongst his ministers and messengers though but one of the least of many, I am freely given up to his blessed requirings to labor and travail what in me lies, that in the end I may receive a penny.
Therefore, my dear, as the Lord hath counted me worthy to bear a public testimony for him in preaching the everlasting Gospel, pray with me that in faith and patience, and with a heart undaunted, I may bear it faithfully unto the end, to the praise and glory of him whose the work is, who is worthy for evermore. And also that when in this my intended voyage and journey I have performed what the Lord requires, I may return to thee with true peace in the joy of his salvation, and that we may live and enjoy one another while we live, as those who enjoy one another in the Lord, where is the peaceable and quiet habitation, until which time the Lord God of life and glory keep and preserve thee, with our little ones, myself, and all his faithful people--who is a faithful keeper and preserver, and withholds no good thing from his dear children, who can be more to wife, than husband, and to children, than father and mother; who is alone worthy of praise, honor, and glory, both now, and for evermore, Amen.
I am thy dear husband, with love to thee still renewed,
Dublin, the 14th of the Fifth month, 1671.
In about two years after, the Lord required of me to go and visit Ireland again. Coming to Wicklow, I went to the jailer's to see Friends in prison and to have a meeting in the town. When the jailer saw me, he said, "Oh, Mr. Banks (as he called me,) are you come again? I think you need not have come any more. You did your business the last time you were here, for I think all the town of Wicklow will be Quakers."
"But notwithstanding what is done," I said, "it is my business to come to see how the Lord's work prospers. For the work is his and we are no more than instruments in his hand which he is pleased to make use of. And more than that, thou hast got many of my friends in prison, and I must needs visit them."
The next time I came to visit this nation, I came to this place again, which was in about two years more, and the priest of Wicklow was dead, the governor gone for England, and no soldiers there, truth still prospering, and Friends' meeting settled and established by the power of God in peace and quiet, and Friends well preserved in and through their sufferings. This makes me say there is none like unto the true and living God, who has wrought and is working wonders in the earth, and bringing strange and mighty acts to pass.
And when I had traveled through most of the nation, visiting Friends and other people, being in the north, in that part called Scot's country, I came up to Antrim with eight Friends more, intending to have a meeting at our friend James Greenwood's house. When we came, there was a constable with his staff, and a company of people with him. He stood at the Friend's door and said that he had an order from the lord Mazarine that we should not meet there. I bid him produce his order and we would give him an answer. He holding out his staff, said that was his order, and we should not meet there, meet where we would. I answered, "Keep to thy word. We shall be content to meet in the King street." Being a market town and Friends and many people being come together, my mouth was opened in a testimony for the Lord and in love to the souls of the people in turning their minds to the teachings of God's Spirit in themselves.
The constable, who was a Presbyterian, came with his staff in a rage to pull me out of the meeting. And I said to him, "Art thou not ashamed to manifest thyself a liar before so many people? Didst thou not say we should meet where we would, except in our friend's house?" So he was smitten and could do no more himself, but went among the people and got a butcher, a man picked out for his purpose, to pull me away. And he came in a most rigid manner, and took me by one arm and haled me down the street a little way. There came a Friend out of the meeting, and said to him, "Cease from persecuting the innocent, lest the judgment of God fall upon thee." Which did immediately seize upon him, and his hands were loosed from me so that he had no power to pull me any further, but stood trembling by me (I being declaring the truth still,) and he went home and took his bed, and never got from under the judgment till he died.
In a little time I saw it my place to be silent, and our friend George Grigson said, "Oh, you people of the town of Antrim! Is this the entertainment which you give to strangers? Some in the days of old, by entertaining strangers in true love, entertained angels unawares." A glorious heavenly day it was for the Lord and his blessed truth in strengthening the faith of his people, for his power and heavenly presence was livingly manifested in the meeting, and many were convinced, and several came to own and receive the truth in the love of it.
In the time of our meeting, there was a sudden storm of wind and rain, the like of which, for the time it continued, I have very seldom or never seen, for the water with the dirt ran in a stream amongst us so that all or most of us were wet to the skin. The storm of wind and rain was a figure of their raging persecuting spirit. And when it was over, the sun broke forth and shined very clear, a true figure of the victory the Truth obtained through the power thereof.
This year, going to London, to the Yearly meeting, I wrote the following letters to my wife:
My dear and loving Wife,
Have faith in and through all thy exercises and know thy faith to stand in the power of God which gives victory over all that is contrary to it. It is good and safe to trust the Lord in every condition, who undoubtedly will provide things needful every way, both for us and ours, as he sees we stand in need, if we are freely given up to do his will and are content therewith. He hath given us an understanding, blessed be his name for ever, and in temporal things, as well as spiritual, diligence must be used, with a godly care and honest endeavors, with what labor and pains the body is able to answer; which always was my concern, when at home. But still in and through all, to have a true regard to God in our hearts, this is the way to bring a blessing and increase upon all our endeavors.
By this, thou, with all thine, and Friends, may know that I am well every way. I am bowed in humility before the Lord for the same. In company with my acceptable companion, Thomas Langhorn, I came here the last Seventh-day night. John Burnyeat is now with me. Things here are all quiet and well at present, and meetings full and large.
Farewell in the Lord.
London, the 11th of the Third month, 1675.
In the feeling of the love of God, my heart is truly open towards thee and thine with a true desire that thou and they may live in the holy, pure fear of the Lord God with a true willingness in thy heart freely to give up whatsoever the Lord doth require, be it in doing or suffering, that so he may be reverenced, worshiped, and served in all things with delight. And that upon no account wherein his truth and glory is concerned we may say, "Why is it thus?" For with him all fulness dwells, and if he bless, none can curse, blessed and praised be his holy name for evermore! The way to bring a blessing upon us and ours is in all his blessed requirings freely to give up to do his will, though it be ever so much in the cross to ours. For this brings the blessing, peace, and lasting gain in all respects.
For thy comfort I may tell thee that since the time I parted from thee, I have been made so much a witness of the enjoyment of the power and presence of God among my brethren that I would not have missed it for all that can be mentioned to me in the world. Oh, the in-breakings of the love and melting power of God, and the shining of his glorious light amongst us in this our Yearly Meeting, where Friends in the ministry were from most parts through this nation! How were our hearts broken, and our souls comforted and consoled!
The Lord did certainly evidence unto us, that our meetings, and what we there offered to him, were acceptable and well pleasing before him. Oh, the sweet harmony of life that was amongst us, the streams whereof flowed, and many living testimonies were borne to the greatness and sufficiency of the power of God that overshadowed us! And oh, the subjection, brotherly tenderness, and godly care that were amongst us one over another, that we might speak one by one, as the Lord by his Spirit moved and gave utterance!
How near were we to the Lord, and how dear one unto another in the unity and fellowship of his blessed Holy Spirit! What a blessed communion was there held, and how richly was the table of the Lord spread amongst us! What thanksgiving, praises, honor and glory were many made to ascribe unto him therefor! And there was a godly care also for the prosperity of the truth and the spreading abroad thereof, together with the establishing of Gospel order and discipline in the churches of Christ.
May I never forget this glorious, heavenly appearance of our God amongst us by his power and life-giving presence; but that it may be of lasting remembrance to me while I have a being, for it hath not only been to me, but to many brethren, a day of great joy and spiritual comfort, to the building of us up together in the most holy faith.
My dear, my heart is overcome in the love of God, with a desire that thou mayest feel the same to thy comfort, with all thine. The Lord keep and preserve you all, and all my dear friends thereaways, to whom is my sincere love remembered. And let all be encouraged to go on in the way of truth and righteousness, though we may meet with various trials and exercises. For of a certain truth the Lord is with us, and by his power he goes before us as our king and captain who pleads our cause and fights our battles for us with all Zion's enemies and opposers.
Blessed and happy are all they who bear a faithful testimony for him while they have a day and time so to do.
Thy faithful husband,
London, 29th of Third month, 1675.
By this thou mayest understand that I am well in all respects, blessed be the Lord my God for ever who by his power hath preserved me. I am now clear of this city and country, having faithfully discharged my duty in what the Lord my God hath required of me, and tomorrow I intend to set my face towards home.
I have passed through a troublesome country, by wicked informers and other officers, but the Lord hath so ordered it in his wisdom that no Friend has suffered two-pence upon my account at any meeting in all my journey, though the Lord knows I never held my peace for fear of suffering, but did as he ordered me, whether to speak more or less, or to be silent. Bless thou the Lord, Oh! my soul, in so ordering and preserving me in this and many other great exercises and tribulations, both in body and spirit, among these wicked informers, where Friends have suffered much by what they call the Conventicle Act. I had seventeen meetings among them. So having not much more in my mind to write, I bid thee farewell in the Lord Jesus Christ,
And remain thy husband in that which changeth not,
Bristol, 30th of the Sixth month, 1675.
In the year 1676, I went into Ireland again, from whence I wrote the following letters to my wife, giving some account of my travels.
My love in the strength of God's power reacheth unto thee, and in that I dearly salute thee and all thine and my prayers are put up unto him for thee, with all thine. The Lord encourage thee by the continuance of his love to follow and obey him in faithfulness that so the sense of his love in thy heart may constrain thee to meet often among his people and with all diligence to wait upon the Lord in true silence to feel refreshment from his presence. Thus, in the life which is pure and precious, thou mayest more and more increase, that as the blessing of the Lord is unto the seed of the righteous, so thou mayest feel it to be upon thee and thine.
In this living exercise the Lord preserve thee low in his fear, that in all godliness of life and conversation thou mayest be a good example to thy family and with godly care mayest train up thy children, now when they are young, as becomes the truth. When they do amiss, correct them according to the fault in the fear of the Lord, laying aside and keeping down all passion and heat of spirit so that they may be a comfort to us in our time and that we may be found clear before the Lord and all people in discharging our duty concerning them. And if they live to the age of men and women and have children, they may have cause to remember our godly care concerning them, and to tell of it in like counsel unto their children, and so from one generation to another.
Let not a foolish pity or foolish fondness tie our hands from correction when there is need of it, as too many do, for this has more regard to the body than the soul. Though surely that which hurts the soul must needs injure the body also. Let us not be too careful for their bodies or for portions or worldly preferment, but using honest endeavors, let us leave the issue to the Lord who I fully believe will provide what shall be sufficient for them, as we are chiefly concerned for the good of their souls, and there leave it.
Let every one of them as they grow up and have ability of body and a capacity accordingly be employed with all diligence in some work or business, that so they may be helpful unto thee and become serviceable in the creation. This I could not pass with clearness, being often under a weighty exercise to have our children trained up in the fear of the Lord that they may be preserved in the way thereof, that none of them might wander or go astray into the broad way of the world, either for husbands or wives, though ever so rich, nor anything else this world can afford, as I see too many do, to the grief of my soul.
By this thou with thine and Friends may know that I am well, together with my companion John Watson, whose company and service is very acceptable to me and God's people. And our travels and exercises are made very comfortable unto us because of the presence of the Lord that doth go along with us.
Many precious and heavenly meetings we have had in many places of this nation, both among Friends and other people who are very open to receive the truth, as also in this city, where many are inquiring the way to Zion, with their faces thitherward. Because of this the devil is stirred up in great wrath, and the heathen rage and the wicked imagine vain things against the Lord and his anointed and come rushing into the meetings in great disorder, like so many wild beasts out of the forest, especially the collegians. But the Lord by his power is pleased so to tame them, that they are put to silence and made to be quiet.
Oh! how powerfully and effectually hath the Lord our God appeared among us in this our Half-year's Meeting which began last Fourth-day, and kept twice every day to the week's end; also two yesterday, and the women's meeting this day. The men's meeting will be held tomorrow, and their week-meeting on Fifth-day.
After the next First-day we intend for Mount-Melick, and so towards the north, being clear of this nation through diligence and hard travel. The Lord, by his power, hath mightily appeared amongst us in our meetings, uniting our hearts together and prospering his work, the praise of it for ever belongs unto him. For what he has already done, my soul praise thou the Lord.
Oh! that Friends might live in love and unity together, that as the Lord hath been good in preserving a remnant alive to himself unto this day, they may continue so unto the end. And whatsoever would arise among them that in any wise tends to break their heavenly unity and brotherly fellowship and sows dissension in the churches of Christ, may it be nipped in the bud. For if it grow, the effects of it will be bad and do great hurt among the plantation of God. The Lord keep and preserve all watchful, that the envier of our happiness and truth's prosperity may be kept out and prevented.
It still remains with me to go out of the north of this nation into Scotland, because of which I have traveled very hard. When we came here first, we stayed but one week, and took our journey through the counties of Wicklow, Wexford, Clonmell, Tallow, Youghall, and so to Cork, and into the west and back by Cork again, and so by Charleville and Mallow, down to Limerick, from whence Friends came with us to this Half-year's Meeting. We traveled very hard three hundred and sixty miles to get to it, in which time we had good service for the Lord in many blessed heavenly meetings.
With the remembrance of my love to thee, and my dear children, and Friends, not forgetting my duty to my father, I conclude, and remain
Thy ever loving husband,
Dublin in Ireland, 13th of the Ninth month, 1676.
In that love which many waters cannot quench, neither floods drown, I write to thee and have thee daily in my remembrance, together with our dear and tender children who are always near and dear to my heart, and I hope ever will be unto the end of time, however the Lord may be pleased to dispose of me.
We intend to go from this seaport town in order for Portpatrick in Scotland.
We are both well every way; praised and magnified be the worthy name of the Lord our God for evermore.
To the Lord and the word of his patience I commit and commend thee, that in him thou mayest be preserved, with all thine, unto the end in all faithfulness, to receive the crown of life and of immortal glory.
Farewell, my dear heart
Donaghadee in Ireland, the 22nd day of the Tenth month, 1676.