By John Banks
When my friend John Watson and I had traveled through the nation of Ireland, visiting Friends therein, and had been much comforted and refreshed together with them, a concern came upon us to visit Friends in Scotland. So we sailed in a half-decked boat from Donaghadee in Ireland and landed at Portpatrick in Scotland. From Portpatrick we traveled seventy miles in cold, frost, and snow in the tenth month, before we came among Friends, which was at Douglas.
The evening before we came there, night came on while we were upon a mountain, where no way was to be seen, for there was so much snow and ice that we could not ride. Being much wearied with going on foot and leading our horses, we lost our way. But at last Providence so ordered it that we found a house and two men came forth and willingly set us into our way. Thus we got to a Friend's house late at night at Douglas, whose name was William Michaell, and had a meeting there next day. Though there were but few Friends belonging to that place, we were sweetly refreshed and comforted together in the enjoyment of the Lord's presence, whereby it is evident that with him there is no respect of persons, time, place, or number.
From Douglas we traveled to Hamilton, and so to Drumboy, Badcow, Lithgow, and Edinburgh, where we visited Friends and other people and had good service for the Lord. Then we went to Prestonpans, Leith, and Edinburgh again, where we had two heavenly meetings, though there were some wild scoffing people among them. Yet the Lord's power chained them down. From thence we traveled to Kelso, Onter, Whittingem, Thrambleton, and so to Morpeth, and Newcastle-upon-Tyne, and thence homeward into Cumberland. The Lord was effectually with us in our travels and exercises, and we were sweetly preserved together in true love and unity in our service for the Lord.
About this time a pain struck into my shoulder and gradually fell down into my arm and hand so that I was wholly deprived of the use of it. The pain increased both day and night. For three months I could neither put my clothes on nor off, and my arm and hand began to wither, so that I applied to some physicians, but could get no cure by any of them. At last, as I was asleep upon my bed in the night time, I saw in a vision, that I was with dear George Fox, and I thought I said to him, "George, my faith is such that if thou seest thy way to lay thy hand upon my shoulder my arm and hand shall be whole throughout." This remained with me two days and nights that the thing was a true vision and that I must go to George Fox, until at last, through much exercise of mind as a great trial of my faith, I was made willing to go to him, he being then at Swarthmore in Lancashire when there was a meeting of Friends on the first day of the week.
Some time after the meeting, I called him aside into the hall and gave him a relation of my dream, showing him my arm and hand. And in a little time, we walking together silently, he turned about and looked upon me, and lifting up his hand, laid it upon my shoulder, saying, "The Lord strengthen thee both within and without." I went to Thomas Lower's of Marsh Grange that night and when I was set down to supper, immediately before I was aware, my hand was lifted up to do its office, which it could not do for long before. This struck me with great admiration, and my heart was broken into tenderness before the Lord. The next day I went home with my hand and arm restored to its former use and strength, without any pain.
The next time that George Fox and I met, he said, "John, thou mended?"
I answered, "Yes, very well in a little time."
"Well," said he, "give God the glory," to whom I was and still am bound in duty so to do, for that and all other his mercies and favors.
He hath all power in his own hand and can thereby bring to pass whatsoever seems good in his eyes. By this same power he prepares instruments and makes use of them as pleaseth him. He is alone worthy of all praise, honor, and glory, both now and for evermore. Amen!
In the year 1678, as I was traveling in the West of England, in Somersetshire, one evening I had a meeting at our friend William Thomas' house at Dullverton into which meeting came an informer and some others with him and took several Friends' names. He was also wicked and abusive, both to me and Friends. Being engaged in testimony for the Lord, I stopped, and said, "Friends and people, mark and take notice of the end of that wicked man," for it was clearly manifested to me that he would make a bad end. Some time after a Friend wrote to me that he killed his wife and was hanged for it at Ilchester. The Friend, W. T., was fined by the information of this wicked informer, but he swore against one who was not at the meeting, and so his wicked intention came to nought.
Some time after my return home, the Lord laid a necessity upon me to go forth with a testimony against that spirit of separation which had sown discord and made division in the churches of Christ, casting stumbling-blocks in the way of the weak, making the cross of Christ of none effect through a false liberty, and setting up separate meetings.
But before I went, I was moved of the Lord to give forth a paper to go before me, and I caused copies to be taken and sent to those places where this spirit had got the most entrance. It was read in divers men's meetings, and those who were of that spirit which the paper testified against were enraged and cried out at some places, "He means us." A copy of which paper follows:
A true and living testimony for the living God and the all-sufficiency and unchangeableness of his power and Spirit, and against the devil and his dark power and spirit by which he rules in the hearts of the children of disobedience with all his cunning and subtlety in his instruments. Also a few words of counsel and advice to all Friends everywhere to keep to their first love and to meet often together in the name of the Lord.
The Lord our God, even the true and living God, hath promised that he will never break his covenant with his people nor alter the word that is gone out of his mouth. This covenant which he hath made with and renewed unto his people is an everlasting covenant of life and peace, even the sure mercies of David, of which he daily makes those witnesses who break not covenant with him, but retain their first love and zeal for his name and truth. His name is above every name, his truth is as precious as in the beginning, and his glory shines over all in this day, endless praises unto him! He hath gathered many into this unchangeable covenant and made them nigh unto himself, who are his true-born sons and daughters, children of the promise, quickened and raised up from a state of death to serve him in newness of life. The work is his own, and the praise and glory belong unto him forever.
Herein are the sure mercies known, the durable riches, and the living substance fed upon. He nourished us by the virtue of his word of life when we were young and tender, which made us grow up before him in stature and in strength with our hearts filled with love to him, our Father, and in love and unity one with another. All our life long to this day hath he been ready to hand forth a suitable supply to our conditions, as we in faithfulness waited upon him. His word is made good and his promise fulfilled, "I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee," worm Jacob, who art little and low in thine own eyes, that dwellest in the low valley, abiding in thy tent, and dost not hunt abroad upon the mountains of imagination. The promise is yea and amen, or ever, to the seed of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. The blessing that makes rich is obtained and partaken of in the seed and covenant of life, Christ Jesus. I will give thee for a covenant unto the people, and for a light unto the Gentiles, that thou mayest be my salvation unto the ends of the earth. This is he whom God hath given unto us, and we have believed on and received him, so that he is become our light, life, and everlasting salvation, the high priest of our profession, our redeemer and restorer, our captain, king, and law-giver, our everlasting shepherd who by his mighty power hath brought us unto his fold of rest where true peace is, magnified be his name forever.
Dear Friends everywhere, whom God hath quickened and raised from death to life by the effectual working of his power, be ye all stirred up in a holy zeal and true tenderness to consider what manner of persons you ought to be, being mindful what the Lord hath done for you ever since you were a people, whom he hath made to be his people, who were not his people--I say, let your consideration be serious in this matter, that so every one of you in this day of his power may bear a faithful testimony for the living God, and the sufficiency of his power and Holy Spirit, against the old enemy and adversary the devil and his dark power and spirit. For truly, good is the Lord and faithful in all his promises to them who wait upon him, as you yourselves are witnesses.
Although our travels in times past, were under great exercise and deep affliction, with weeping and mourning, with our hands upon our loins, and although many have been our trials both within and without, the Lord, by the all-sufficiency of his power, hath wrought our deliverance, as we relied upon the same, so that sorrow and sighing are fled away and everlasting joy is sprung up. Yea, endless joy is known here, endless comfort and satisfaction where we can praise the Lord together in the beauty of holiness, being arrayed with the clothing of his Spirit, which makes us all comely before God, even the Spirit of Truth, the Comforter.
Our unity and fellowship stands in the Spirit and in the Truth that comes from the God of Truth, who is light, and in him is no darkness at all, in which, as we live and dwell, we have unity one with another, and all the powers of hell and death are not able to break us asunder, nor an unclean spirit to hurt us. For we have salvation for walls and bulwarks, and there is no destroying in all God's holy mountain. For the destroying, wasting, and dividing spirit and cunning deceit is upon Esau's mountain and in Cain's field, out from the life and power, the true light and fear of the living God who is a God of order, and preserves all his children and people in comely order, living a godly life and holy conversation in all their undertakings, to the end that they may honor and glorify him in their day, by bringing forth much fruit, faithfully waiting upon and worshiping and serving him.
Oh! the love of our God unto us. The great care and tenderness he hath had over us ever since we were a people, that we might be faithful laborers in his vineyard. Did he call us to be idle? Surely nay. Did he give a gift unto male and female, that we should hide it in the earth and not improve it to his glory? Oh! nay. Hath he done so much for us that we should always be as children, and neither speak nor act as men? Surely nay, but that we should grow up in stature and strength before him as perfect men and women in Christ Jesus our holy head, that we might all work together as a body fitly framed in holy order in his heavenly power and Spirit, which leads into purity and holiness, love and true unity, which stand in the Spirit where no rent is, and where no strife nor separation can enter.
Through the blessed working of his all-sufficient power, the Lord in his love brought us together and made us a people, and hath preserved us so, to his praise and our eternal comfort. And it is the work of the devil, by his evil power and dark spirit and wicked instruments actuated thereby, to divide and scatter us asunder. But my testimony for God to you my friends which still lives in my heart is to the all-sufficiency of his power. Keep close to that which first gathered you near to the Lord and one unto another, who hath placed his name amongst you, and then not all the powers of hell and death or any unclean spirit shall be able to separate, or hurt, or break you asunder, for the power of God is your foundation.
Settle upon this, for it stands sure and is of God's own laying. Be ye as weighty stones of his building, and then you cannot be moved by all the strength of man's reasoning, nor by all the cunning of the fallen wisdom of Satan. But as your dwelling is in the pure light, and as you retain the feeling sense of the Divine life and keep close to the power, you will be enabled to say, "The Lord our God is the true and living God, and besides him there is not another; and therefore we will trust in him and rely upon his power and Holy Spirit, which is all-sufficient for ever."
And now, dear Friends, although the devil, the old liar, be at work in this day in a great mystery, even the mystery of iniquity, by his evil power and rending spirit, heed him not nor his instruments, for the power of God is over him and them all, yea, over all that is contrary unto it. For he that was the first will be the last, who said, "I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end," and he will tread down Satan shortly and all his agents of mischief.
He has promised to bruise the serpent's head, which daily is fulfilling by the dominion of his power and Holy Spirit over hell, death, and the grave, and every foul, unclean, quibbling spirit. For these are appointed for the fire of wrath and judgment, whose end is to kill and destroy, and make rents and breaches among God's people where it gets an entrance, of which I warn Friends to beware. It is one of the devil's last shifts to appear in the name of the light and the ancient power and truth as it was in the beginning, a transformation to cover his dark power and spirit, which creeps cunningly in the dark to deceive the simple.
But he will not now be called the devil, he will be called God. He will not be called an adversary, but he will be called a friend by those who are his subjects, though under another pretense. For if any call him otherwise, then he rageth in his instruments. But we must tell him plainly that he is the old liar, the same that deceived Adam and Eve, and the greatest enemy and adversary the Lord, his truth, and his people have at this day. And they who take part with this evil spirit and suffer it to rule in their hearts, so that by its strength they become open opposers, these are also great enemies to the Lord, his truth, and his people. But no weapon formed against them shall prosper.
But endless glory to the true and living God! This subtle serpent with all his wiles, cunning and subtlety, in the pure light is seen and discovered in all his wicked works and workers and cunning contrivances. And that power is risen in the hearts of all who keep faithful and close to it, which will tread him down and preserve in the pure unity and Gospel fellowship which stand in the Spirit and in the Truth. But this wicked spirit hath no share in it, that would make breaches and rents, and let in the wild beasts of the field to devour God's heritage, and so scatter abroad the sheep of his pasture, and drive them back again into spiritual Sodom and Egypt where the Lord of life and glory is crucified and slain and made merry over.
This spirit is not of the Father but of the world, and will lead into looseness, lightness, and false liberty wherever it gets an entrance. This subtle spirit hath induced too many through its cunning craftiness to slight men's and women's meetings and the power of God by which they were set up and are more and more established, which power would bind this separating, dividing spirit so that it cannot abide it, to wit, the power and authority of the men's and women's meetings, and the holy order therein practiced, and the good effects thereby brought forth, which tend to set up truth and righteousness and sweep out all deceit, hypocrisy, uncleanness, and false liberty so that the house may be made clean throughout, and a godly care held that it be kept so.
This disquiets that wicked spirit, and it rages in some of its instruments, though it appears in others more subtly, being not content with the liberty the truth allows and with the order which it hath set up, there being not room enough for their wills and sensual wisdom.
The Lord in his love and by his light hath clearly given me to see its way, that it leads to the chambers of death and of hell, and he hath delivered my soul from its snare, who once was in danger to be taken by it when men's and women's meetings were first set up by entering into reasoning with it. And this is the way that it gathers strength and draws a veil over the mind of the simple.
Wherefore, rejoice thou, O my soul, and praise the Lord with all his ransomed ones, because he, by his glorious power, is treading down Satan, and the redeemed of the Most High shall rejoice and sing praises unto him who sits upon the throne and unto the Lamb for evermore.
And let none say, "Who is able to make war with the beast, and the number of his name," but live by faith. And let your faith stand in the sufficiency of God's power, as those who in the victory and dominion of it can say, "Who is able to make war with the Lamb and his followers, for the Lamb must have the victory, and the crown shall be set upon the heads of all those who continue unto the end; the weapons of whose warfare are not carnal but spiritual, and mighty through God, to whom be the glory and honor for ever."
Dear Friends everywhere, to whose hands this may come, give ear to the advice of your brother. As the Lord hath done for my soul, every one beware and take heed of touching, tasting, or handling this spirit, or entering into reasoning with it, lest thereby you be overcome. I say as one who has a necessity upon me to warn you in the name of the Lord, take heed and beware of the spirit that bringeth forth these evil fruits and works such bad effects, though under a fair pretense, lest you be betrayed and beguiled thereby, as the serpent beguiled Eve. But keep your zeal and retain your integrity and first love for the Lord, his truth, and his people. Beware and take heed of giving way to that mind which would cause you to forsake the assembling of yourselves together amongst God's people, or to slight or make a light matter of men's and women's meetings, but be faithful, careful, and diligent in keeping all your meetings in the name and power of God, First-day and weekday, and men's and women's meetings. And cry not, "My business, my business, my work and my trade," when you should go and wait upon and worship or do any service for the Lord. But mind the Lord's work and business and live by faith, and you will have time enough to do your own, lest your love be so much to perishing things that you be not found worthy of Christ Jesus, to whom let every soul be subject in all things, who is worthy of glory and honor forever. Amen.
Moorgate, in Cumberland, the 16th day of the Seventh month, 1678.
And according to what the Lord required of me herein, I was wrought into a willingness to go forth into several counties in this nation to bear my testimony against this spirit and such as were actuated by it. I went with fear and trembling, yet the Lord furnished me with power sufficient to perform what he required of me, though my exercises were great, both in body and spirit. Whilst at the Yearly Meeting at London I wrote the following letter to my wife:
Thou art truly so unto me, as near as bone of my bone, and flesh of my flesh. This is the Lord's own doing and we are forever engaged to return the praise and glory unto him, who hath blessed us and our offspring who grow up as tender plants before him, which makes my heart and soul tender to consider the great love and favor of God to us herein. My love is with thee and thine, and my life in the truth reacheth unto you, though I be thus separated from you. And the supplication of my soul is to the Lord for you that your faith and patience may increase more and more, that in hope you may be confirmed against all the reasonings of the enemy and may for ever trust in the Lord and the sufficiency of his power, which thou knowest, my dear, hath never failed us, nor ever will, as we continue unto the end in the faith of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
And as the Lord hath been pleased to work thee into a true willingness to give me up into his service, expect me not again before I have performed it, for the will of the Lord cannot be done but in the cross to ours. I have great cause to magnify the name of the Lord for ever, who hath not only called me into his work and service, but is pleased to furnish me with wisdom and ability every way to perform what he requires according to my measure.
Let us then praise the Lord, because his work prospers both in city and country. The Lord be with thee and thine, and comfort and refresh thy soul in the assemblies of his people, with whom meet as often as thou canst, First-day and week-day, with the rest of the family, for thou knowest it was always my care when present. Wherefore I did rise early and sit up late, and worked and labored with all diligence that the same might be effected according to the desire of my heart, and that through diligence in lawful business, with the blessing of the Lord, I might also provide for and maintain thee with the children in decent and comely order, according to truth and my ability.
And as this was my care and concern when present, I can do no less than put thee in mind of those things though absent, not being unmindful of thy affairs and concerns as to the outward, in which I still sympathize with thee. This I hope the Lord, as he has done, through faith and patience, and using diligence, will make easy unto thee. For we have no cause to look back and say, "The Lord has been wanting." But on the other hand, he hath withheld nothing from us that he has seen we stood in need of, as therewith we have been content, endless glory unto him who lives for ever!
As to our Yearly Meeting, oh! how did the Lord's power overshadow us, and his pure love and life run as a stream amongst us, with the pouring forth of his Spirit upon us in a plentiful manner; in subjection to whose holy Spirit we were made willing to speak and declare, one by one, of the great work of God, confirming and establishing one another therein in all faithfulness. And this was in such subjection and holy order, very many brethren being present, that my heart breaks into tenderness when I think of if. Yea, such was the glorious appearance of God amongst us in our meetings, both of men and women, that the contrary spirit was never once able to lift up its head, for the power of God was over all, so that we were made to joy and rejoice before him in returning praise, honor, and glory unto him who is worthy for ever, who is carrying on his own work in order to perfect it, and none can let nor hinder, though they may oppose.
Notwithstanding the great noise of wars, all the meetings I have been in here were full, peaceable, and quiet, even so full that not many houses could contain them, though it is supposed some will hold between two and three thousand. Here is encouragement for all the Lord's people to go on their way rejoicing, for the Lord our God is with us, and in faith and patience to say, "Come what may come, thy will O God, be done! for all things work together for good to them that love Thee unto the end," unto which the Lord preserve us all. Amen!
I intend, if the Lord will, to go from hence tomorrow and travel towards Bristol, and it may be one month ere I come there. I traveled hard to come here one week before the Yearly Meeting, which tended to clear me the sooner of this city.
And now, my dear children, mind the fear of the Lord, every one of you who can see a difference between good and evil, and be careful to do that which is good. So shall you be preserved out of that which is evil. Be sober and quiet, and take heed to every word your mother saith, as though I were there and spoke it, for she tells you for your good what she would have you to do.
Be mindful to read as often in your books as you have opportunities, together with the Holy Scriptures, which is the book of books.
And you my servants, James and Mary, my love is to you, with a great desire and care in my heart that you may dwell together in love and unity in the fear of God and walk as becomes the truth, which the Lord in his love hath given you a knowledge of, in which I truly desire your growth and increase, as if you were my children. Then all things will be well.
Farewell my dear wife, children, and servants.
London, the 16th of the Fourth month, 1679.
From thence I proceeded in my journey westward, but my greatest exercise was in Westmoreland and at Hartford, as I came up to London, and afterward at Reading, Wycombe, Charlcote, Bristol, and through Wiltshire, where I had fifteen meetings in three weeks, at all which meetings there were many of these unruly separate-spirited people, though none of them had power to oppose me. Yet, afterwards, most meetings would be greatly enraged against me behind my back and threaten what they would do at the next meeting, but they never had power to open a mouth in meeting to oppose, for it pleased the Lord to be with me in a wonderful manner; to his praise and glory I speak it with reverence and humility before him. For my testimony was as a flame of fire among briars and thorns, as many of God's people could witness.
My companion, Christopher Story, was a help and comfort to me, though little concerned in that exercise. Yet he greatly sympathized with me in spirit and had a good service to Friends, and continues a solid weighty man in the work of the ministry, both at home and abroad.
Oh! great was the exercise I travailed under many times, both in body and spirit. For the weight and wickedness of the separate spirit bore hard upon me, but the Lord's power chained and limited it. I had little benefit either of meat or sleep, especially in Wiltshire, for they who were of it followed me from meeting to meeting.
The following letter I wrote to my daughter after she was placed at service in London in the year 1682:
Sarah Banks, my eldest daughter,
Thou hast been near and dear to me ever since the day thou wast born. With a godly care as a tender father I have prayed that thou mightest be nourished up in thy young and tender years for thy preservation and with many desires in my heart to Almighty God, that as thou grewest in years, he would be pleased to make thee sensible and give thee an understanding of those things which make for thy everlasting peace and the salvation of thy soul in the kingdom of glory when time here shall be no more.
And now, dear child, the Lord having thus far answered my desires and enabled me to perform my care towards thee, I have a further concern upon my mind for the good of thy soul, which as thou art truly mindful of will tend to thy good and will never hinder thee of anything that is really needful for thee.
First of all I would put thee in mind that God, according to his Divine Wisdom and Providence, gave thee life and breath, which thou oughtest to prize and value as mercies, amongst many more thou hast received from him. And thou art also come to an understanding in some degree how to behave thyself as a child of God by the light and grace of our Lord Jesus Christ which he hath placed in the secret of thy heart for a teacher to thee in all things. My concern now is to stir thee up unto this by way of remembrance to be faithful and obedient to its requirings, whether more or less.
This light and grace of our Lord Jesus Christ teacheth thee thy duty towards God, to thy parents, and to all men and women. It first teaches thee to fear and love God and to wait upon, worship, and serve him with all thy mind and strength, that he alone by his Spirit, manifested in and through Jesus Christ, may be thy chiefest love and delight. It will teach thee as thou art watchful to deny all ungodliness and worldly lusts, to take pleasure and delight in meeting with God's people, to worship him in spirit and truth so that thou mayest come more and more to have unity and fellowship with his faithful children, according to thy measure.
This pure light of the Son of God teaches thee to be lowly minded, sober and watchful over thy words, carriage, and behavior, in thy life and conversation, and to choose such for thy companions and not those who though they profess the truth are light, wanton, high-minded, and follow the fashions of the world; and tattling, and tale-bearing, and meddling with other men's and women's matters which do not concern them. Be sure thou be found only in what concerns thee and well becomes thy place, being a servant.
This is the way to grow in grace and saving knowledge and to have the comely adorning, which is the ornament of a meek and quiet spirit which in the sight of God is of great price and is better than costly attire. This is the way to be beloved of God and his people, to grow up a good woman, and to make a blessed and happy end. This blessed way and course of life, my soul desires for thee, my dear child, that thou mayest carefully live and keep in it to the end of thy days. Amen.
The light of Jesus Christ which thus teaches thee thy duty towards God will also teach thee thy duty towards all men, women, servants, and children, especially now in thy place where thou art a servant. It will teach thee to be faithful, willing, and obedient to thy master and mistress in all things which are meet and convenient, to be careful that nothing waste under thy hand which is committed to thy trust, nor otherwise, and to watch with an eye for good over all in the family. If anything else appear, tell it not abroad to any whereby it may cause dissension, but first tell the party in love, for so wouldest thou be dealt with. This is according to the righteous law of God, which is light, that teaches to do unto all as we would be done unto. And when anything happens amiss with thyself and thou art spoken to and reproved for it, as Paul's counsel to Timothy concerning servants was, I exhort thee in tenderness, murmur not nor answer again, except it be to say it shall be amended.
My dear child, the desire of my heart is unto Almighty God that this my counsel and advice may be made effectual unto thee and that in the serious consideration thereof, with honest desires raised in thee to perform and answer the same, thy heart may be truly broken and tendered before the Lord, and so kept in all lowliness and humility before him unto the end of thy days. Amen.
So prayeth thy tender and affectionate father,