By John Banks
This year I went to Ireland again, from whence I wrote the following letter to my wife:
In that which openeth my heart to the Lord and maketh me truly tender before him am I at this time enlarged in tenderness towards thee, with our dear children and servants, desiring to the Lord that by the same power thy heart may be kept open in tenderness before him so that thou mayest increase more and more and that we may have a sense one of the other of our growing up together by the living virtue that springs out of the root which bears us. For as our habitation and dwelling is here, though our work and service be not one because of the diversity of the gifts given us, yet we grow up together as do all the faithful in Christ Jesus.
The Lord preserve thee in his fear and guide thee in his wisdom so that thou mayest be a good example before thy children and servants, being careful to train them up in the same fear, to walk as becomes truth in all things; always having a tender regard over them, chiefly for the good of their souls, as well as their bodies. For many opportunities in mercy thou hast wherein thou mayest do good unto them which I have not.
So, my dear, be concerned for their good as they grow up in understanding, for they are quick and apprehensive enough (as many children in this age are), who can quickly see if they be indulged in anything which they ought not to have. And if we thus indulge them, we lose our dominion and authority over them.
Let our care be to reach to and have the answer of the witness of God in them, even the witness of his gracious Spirit, which most of them have a sense of and by which they know what they should do and what they should not. And as this comes up in them and is minded, it will make good children of them. And much lies in what examples we are before them.
Wherefore I am still more and more concerned in my mind how to behave myself towards them, to the end I may be found clear of my charge and duty concerning them, especially for the good of their souls. The Lord hath richly blessed us with them as manifold mercies, but still there remains a great care and concern on our parts to be performed. For want of this, I clearly see that many children who might bring honor to God, his truth, and their parents are, on the contrary, a dishonor to all, though they may have great possessions in the earth, and fulness, ease, and great preferment as it is called. But being lost from the Truth, what serves it all for, though many look too much at that, and neglect the weightier matters, which ought to be the greatest part of their concern.
And now, dear children, you may understand our care and concern for you. Therefore you that are come to this understanding, I admonish you as a tender father, in the love of God, that you would put on this good resolution, and say, "How ought I to behave myself in all things, both in word and deed, carriage and behavior, as an obedient child, both to my dear father and mother, who have such a care for my good and preservation every way, and especially to my mother, my father being absent?" And in order that you may all be such now to her, and to me when I am present, be ye all subject and condescending one unto another. Live in love, quietness, and goodwill one towards another; and be sober-minded in the fear of God, and keep out of all company but such as is sober.
And by no means be idle at any time, but give yourselves to some good employment, such as your body and understanding is able to perform, with a willing and ready mind to be assistant to your mother in her concerns. And be careful to mind your books when you have time for it. Read the Holy Scriptures and Friends' books, and be diligent in your course and order to keep to meetings, weekday as well as First-day, that so the work of your hands may be made more easy, sweet, and comfortable unto you, and that God over all, for all his blessings and mercies, may have the praise, honor, and glory, who is eternally worthy.
Peter Fearon, who was my servant seven years, is now my acceptable companion in the work of the Gospel.
Mount Melick in Ireland, the 23rd of the Fourth month, 1682.
A relation of my imprisonment in the city of Carlisle in Cumberland for six years and nine months because for conscience sake I could not pay tithes demanded by George Fletcher of Hutton hall, in the aforesaid county, a justice of peace, so called, but a great persecutor of God's people by imprisonment and spoiling of their goods. And at the time of my commitment, all that he pretended was that his due was but eight shilling's and six-pence, which showeth his hard-heartedness and oppression.
In the beginning of the second month of the year 1684, I was committed to prison at the suit of the said George Fletcher, impropriator, because for conscience sake I could not but bear my testimony against that great oppression of tithes, being first subpoenaed, and afterwards arrested, because in obedience to Christ's command I could not put in my answer upon oath to his bill.
On the same day that I was taken to prison, there came twelve men with a warrant from George Fletcher and distrained and took away seven pounds, ten shillings worth of my goods for part of a fine of twenty pounds for a Friend in the ministry who spoke in our meeting-house at Pardsay-Crag, it being in the time of the penal act against conventicles. The goods were sold by him, or his order and so much more taken from other Friends for the said fine, as amounted to thirty-five pounds. My imprisonment continued seven years, wanting three months, when I was freed by King William's Act of Grace.
Here follows a true relation of the abuses and hard usage that I with some of my fellow prisoners have suffered from the jailer, George Lancake, and the turnkey, Alexander Richardson, for no other cause than worshiping God in our prison-house and in obedience unto the Lord, speaking in his name in exhortation and prayer; and sometimes by way of warnings that I was constrained to give to people as they passed by our prison-window from their worship and at other times, to turn to the Lord by a speedy repentance and amendment of their ways.
On the 20th day of the fifth month, 1684, a little before the time of our meeting, there being five more Friends who were prisoners with me, the jailer said to me that except I would promise him not to preach that day he would take me away. I answered that I could not make him any such promise, neither did I know before the time came that I should preach.
" Then," said he, " I have prepared another place for thee." He took me by my arm, and led me along and put me in a noisome, smoky room under which they brewed and locked me in, where I remained three days and two nights without any bed. So the First-day in the evening after I was put there, the turnkey came and opened the door and said that his master sent him to bid me come forth and go to my friends. But I answered, "Go tell thy master I shall not come forth of this place to another until he fetch me himself who put me here."
He went and told him and the jailer bid his man tell me again that I should stay there until I rotted before he would fetch me. But I took no notice of that, knowing well what I did. There were several prisoners in his house for debt, who had wastefully spent most of their estates, who said, "The Quaker saith he will not come forth till you fetch him," meaning the jailer, "and you say he shall stay there till he rot before you will do it. We will see who will get the victory."
That night and the next day and night passed over, and the next day towards the evening came the turnkey again and told me that his master had sent him to pull me out by force if I would not come willingly, that being the fourth time he sent him. The turnkey was a lusty, strong, rugged-spirited fellow.
I being sitting, stood up before him, and said, "If thou canst take me by force, do, here I am," stretching forth my arms.
So he took me by one and pulled with all his strength, but he could not move me at all, and he wickedly said, "God bless me, I think the devil is in the man. I cannot move him."
"Nay," said I, "the devil is in thee, and I am stronger through the power of God than both thee and the devil. Go, tell thy master that." All this while I felt his master was in torment.
So he went and told him what he had done and what I said. And he said that he thought I was as strong as twenty men, for he could move me no more than if I had been a tree. But in a little time after came the jailer himself to me, and said, "What now, John, what is the matter that you will not come forth, I having sent my man so often to let thee go to thy friends?"
I answered, "Because it was thy will and pleasure to lead me hither, thou shalt also lead me back again, or here I intend to stay. I shall be a true prisoner to thee. I shall not make an escape."
After some more words had passed between us, he took me by the arm, saying, "Well, come then. If nothing else will do, I will lead thee back again," which he did, down the stairs through the court, to the door from whence he brought me, and thrust me in, and said, "Go thy ways, pray God I had never seen thy face." And the prisoners for debt standing at his door, looking on while he led me, laughed and said, "The Quaker hath got the victory."
After this, for seven meetings together, the turnkey haled me out into the jailer's house, being urged on by him, with many threatening speeches, charging his man not to let one of us go out at the gate of his court.
About this time I wrote to my wife as follows:
My love in our Lord Jesus Christ salutes thee, and all thine, and Friends as though named. The breathing of my soul is still continued unto the Lord for your preservation. For we have cause to say that the Lord hath never been wanting to us in the time of our greatest need, to bear up our spirits with courage and boldness for his own name's sake. And as we retain our integrity unto the end, he will be the same, though greater may be our trials and exercises than heretofore.
Wherefore, let us go on our way rejoicing together because the Lord is our strength, through the greatness of his power, who has not only counted us worthy to believe in his name, but also to suffer for it. And though many hands and tongues be lifted up and bended against the Lord and his chosen and redeemed ones, in vain do they strive. For the Lord hath determined to carry on his own work in his own way and to finish it in his time, in despite of all Zion's enemies and opposers thee and to crown his faithful ones with dominion and victory.
So the Lord preserve thee, my dear, near to himself, in openness and tenderness of heart that thou mayest feel and receive of his divine comfort and spiritual sweetness in waiting upon him in the assemblies of his people and through the fresh virtue thereof to be kept living and tender before him that so by his power thou mayest be preserved in and through all thy various exercises, knowing that many are the trials of the righteous, but the Lord delivereth out of all. And this is the comfort and encouragement of the righteous which makes them bold and valiant for the truth upon earth.
I am well, with all my suffering brethren, notwithstanding the rage of the wicked still continues against us. And no greater joy and comfort I have in this world than to know that thou and all thine are well, both in body and mind. In the Lord's time all things will be well. Though I could be glad to see thee here, do not straiten thyself in any wise, for I am truly content to bear it, even if it were much more, considering thy concerns in this season of the year, being harvest time, and the journey so long.
So farewell in the Lord,
From the prison in Carlisle, the 12th of the Sixth month, 1684.
Upon the 17th day of the sixth month, being the first day of the week, we were met together to wait upon the Lord our God with all our hearts, whose power and presence, to his praise and glory be it spoken, was daily manifested amongst us. The turnkey, who now always watched when I spoke, came, according to his wonted manner, and took me away to his master's house.
The jailer's rage and cruelty began to rise to a greater height than before and the bad tree to bring forth corrupt and bad fruit more abundantly, as his corrupt words, wicked speeches and actions hereafter testify. After I had been in his house some time, he began to break forth in a rage and say that we were all rogues, and rascals, and cheating knaves, and the common jail was too good for us. Nay, if he could get us into the house of office, he would put us all there, being then in number sixteen. However, he said he would put six of us who were in one room into the smoky loft and the rest into his barn, and we should lie there like sheep in their pens. He charged the turnkey not to let one of us go out at his gate, no not to buy our own victuals or what we had need of, which his man pretty strictly observed so that we were put to it to get one to bring such things to us as we had occasion for.
About this time William Johnson, a Friend, a prisoner, said to the jailer, "Seeing thou so straitenest us of our liberty that we may not go forth to buy our own victuals, thou shouldest get us somebody to do it for us." He said he would get us none, and if one of us durst go out at the gate, he would drive us in again, as the thieves were driven to the gallows.
Upon the next Sixth-day, being the 22nd day of the month, we were met together in the fear of the Lord in the prison-house, and our friend John Carlisle amongst us, he being an inhabitant of the city. In our waiting upon the Lord he did powerfully appear amongst us as at other times, and our friend John Carlisle had his mouth opened with some words of comfort to Friends in suffering. But on a sudden the turnkey came and haled him away and turned him out at the gate. But he came in again and spake some words to the jailer to warn him to beware what he did. But the jailer pushed him on the breast with his fist, insomuch that the jailer's wife asked him if he was mad.
In a little time after the turnkey had haled our Friend John Carlisle away, the spirit of supplication came upon me, and in obedience thereto, I besought the Lord for my own preservation, with the rest of his suffering people. Then came the turnkey and pulled me off of my knees, being set on by the jailer who bid him pull me out by the ears, and stood at the stairs' head with a staff in his hand, we being in an upper room. And when the turnkey brought me to the stairs' head, the jailer said, "Throw him down head foremost and he will be sooner at the ground," and thrust me with his staff, setting it on my ribs, while the other haled me. They put me in the old smoky room, and there kept me until some time after the meeting was over, as their manner was. And in the meeting some time after they haled me out, our friend William Johnson spoke a few words of exhortation to Friends, and the turnkey came and haled him away into another room in the jailer's house.
Two meetings later, the turnkey haled me out and abused me much, sometimes putting my hat over my face when I was declaring the truth, and setting up a hooting noise to drown my voice, that people in the street might not understand. At other times coming behind me and clapping his hands upon my mouth to stop me from speaking, but could not.
Upon the 26th day of the same month, we being met together to perform our duty unto the Lord, a necessity came upon me to pray to him and so with his people then present, we fell down upon our knees together. In a little time after came both the jailer and the turnkey, and the jailer said, "Pull him down." So he pulled me down from off my knees along the floor by one of my arms, but said he could not get me along, and the jailer said, "Trail him." But he could not get me trailed to the other's mind. And so the jailer took hold of me in great fury by the same arm that the other had hold of, and both dragged me along the floor, out of the door, down the stairs, into the old smoky room again.
And when I was at the stairs' foot, these words rose in my heart, which I spoke to the jailer, "It had been better for thee that thou hadst never taken this weapon into thine hand, to fight against God, his truth and people. For the time will come upon thee which thou canst not resist, that it will turn with trouble and pain into thy own bowels." To the truth of which, several times he hath since confessed.
About this time, upon the first-day of the week, the then mayor, John How, and aldermen, with the chief priests, there being a great many of them belonging to the city, with several of a persecuting spirit, being greatly enraged against me because I was often constrained to sound truth's testimony in their ears as they came from their worship, I being in their view, the casement of our window opening to the street, came into our meeting in our prison-house when I was engaged in testimony for the truth. And the mayor in great rage bid me be silent, often shaking his staff at me, threatening what he would do to me for preaching there and disturbing all the city, in contempt of authority.
I seemed to take no notice of him for some time, that so he might manifest himself the more. He being a very passionate man, said that if I would not be silent, he would stop my mouth. Then I answered and said, "The Lord hath opened my mouth and he and all the assistance he could get in the city could not stop it." He said he would put a gag in it and put me in the common jail, and I should preach there to the walls. I said, "I fear neither thee, thy gag, nor the common jail. For though thou art the mayor, thou hast nothing to do to meddle with us, we are the king's prisoners and in safe custody, and here is our keeper," pointing at the jailer, he being present, "so thou mayest go about thy own business," with which he was silent.
Then one of the aldermen said to me that he could prove I had nothing to do to preach. I asked him how he could prove it. He said, "By the Bible." I bid one reach him a Bible quickly. Another alderman said to him, "Let him alone, sir, you will do no good with him. You may as well speak to the wall." So he failed of his proof, and with some threatening words they all went away and troubled us no more.
At times the jailer would seem to flatter me, to see what he could do that way, and would say, "Thou seest the mayor and aldermen of the city with the priests and many others are set against me because I suffer thee to preach, and say they will fine me, and that your meeting is a conventicle. If thou wilt preach, canst thou not preach in another house off from the street, or go to the other end of this house, it being a long one? Will no place serve thee but just before the casement?"
I said several times to him upon this account, "I take no notice of thy flattery, no more than of thy threatenings, neither can I go to another place at thy request, nor theirs. Put me where thou wilt, as a prisoner I shall be true and subject to thee. But in what is required of me in obedience to the Lord, in that I am resolved in his name and fear to stand faithful in my testimony for him in doing or suffering, not regarding or fearing what either thou or any of these persecutors shall say or do to hinder me, notwithstanding thine and their cruelty and threatenings. For the Lord my God, in whom I trust and for whose cause I suffer, is my preserver. I can well remember, and have good cause so to do, that above twenty years ago, I was put prisoner into the common jail in this city for praying to Almighty God and being met with his people, and also fined and goods distrained for it, and the Lord endued me with strength to suffer all with joy and gladness. And thinkest thou I will play the coward now after so many years? Nay, nay, blessed be the name of the Lord for evermore! I am grown so many degrees stronger in faith and patience, through the might of his power, that I hope and believe upon good ground, I shall be enabled to endure whatsoever thou and all who are like minded with thee shall he suffered to impose upon me. So never let it enter thee to think thou shalt prevail over me, either with flattery, threatening, cruelty, or the common jail."
After this he said to some of the aldermen in discourse with them about me, "I have used all the endeavors I could hitherto to put yonder man to silence, but I cannot, and I know no way that it can be done, but one, and I dare not do it. Except his mouth be sewed up, I dare say he will never give over preaching."
And for four meetings after this, came either the jailer or turnkey and haled and abused me, and put me in some other place, until after the meeting was over; and through the jailer's cruelty and abuse, my body was bruised and my health impaired.
On the 13th day of the seventh month, our friend Peter Fearon being come to visit the prisoners, we sat down together to wait upon the Lord, and after some time Peter Fearon went to prayer. But in a little time came the turnkey in a great rage, and asked our friend, "Where camest thou from? Come away!" And so fell to pulling him in a most cruel manner, taking him by the cravat and throwing him back into a bed, and said that he would either hang him or pull out his throat. Still shaking and pulling him by his cravat or neckcloth, he dragged him out of the door into the jailer's house, with curses and oaths what he would do to him. For this I reproved both the jailer and turnkey sharply so that in a little time they let him go.
This day I wrote to my wife and children, the following letter:
Thou art truly so to me, even so near that we are truly one, to help to bear each other's burdens, to sympathize and to be truly concerned one for the other's preservation, both at home and abroad, in prison or at liberty, in sickness or health, not only for the body, but for the eternal happiness and well-being of the soul. This is the right concern of husband and wife who are truly joined together and who are come to know the true marriage, which is God's joining. Oh, how this helpeth, strengtheneth, encourageth and beareth up in the time of the greatest exercise.
The Lord, who knoweth my heart, knows how often in my confinement I have been under a serious consideration of thy condition with thy weak family, as to outward things, with a cry unto the Lord in the supplication of my soul on thine and their behalf that thou mightest be preserved with them in health and strength for the managing of thy affairs. And surely thy soul may say with mine, "The Lord hath heard and answered--He hath been good and gracious unto us herein so that we can say that things on that hand are well." And so with humbled hearts for the same, let us bless and praise his holy and worthy name and have his mercies, blessings, and favors in continual remembrance. For surely the Lord hath a secret ordering hand in those things. And if, in his fear and true faith, it be minded, he gives us to see and makes us witnesses also, that he can and doth bring things to pass, far beyond what can beforehand be seen or expected.
And now, my dear, as to my present state under suffering, it is well, though I am not altogether so in body. Yet in the Lord's time I hope I shall be so. I say it is well, though my condition be what it is. For I am well assured that it is according to his will, in performing which I have great peace and satisfaction, although the wrath and cruelty of ungodly men are still much bended against me. But I believe it will not be long until the Lord by his power will bring them down. For I see, in the light of the Lord, their strength grows weak and their expectation concerning me begins to fail. Howbeit, whatsoever the Lord may yet suffer them to inflict upon my body, I count all that may be endured or passed through here but light affliction, because of the evidence and assurance of that far more exceeding weight of eternal glory which I have in view, through faith in Jesus Christ, and am traveling in the way that will bring to the everlasting possession thereof.
And so, my dear, let us freely and faithfully follow those things which will make for our everlasting peace and joy with the Lord whereby we may have the full assurance of the salvation of our souls, in the kingdom of happiness and glory, when time here shall be no more, whatever we enjoy besides in this world. For be it more or less, as we are truly content therewith, it will be sufficient. The Lord giveth and taketh away, or suffers it so to be, according to his good will and pleasure, blessed be his holy name and reverenced be his glorious power, now, henceforth, and for evermore. Amen!
And now, my dear children, concerning whom my heart is often tendered, my bowels yearn for your preservation from evil, and that you may grow and increase in all that is good. Give ear every one of you and take good notice what I have to say unto you.
John, my Son, and dear child, God in his love, according to his Divine wisdom, hath given thee a measure or manifestation of his good Spirit, grace, or light, which he hath placed in thy heart and conscience, as a witness against every appearance of evil. This in some degree thou art come to the knowledge of; whereby thou knowest thou shouldest do that which is good and eschew the evil. This light of the Lord Jesus Christ teaches thee not to be wild or wanton, or given to any idle talking, or unsavory words. And if thou shouldest do or act contrary, this pure light will reprove and judge thee for it. This is that, my child, which thou must own and love. And then it will not only discover all sin and every evil to thee, but as thou takest heed to its checks, reproofs, and manifestations, thou wilt receive power over those things, one after another, which the light makes manifest unto thee, to avoid all light and airy company and to have thy mind kept in the fear of God to serve him.
Above all love the truth and those who are in it. And love to go to Friends' meetings, and delight in their company. So wilt thou come to be weaned from every appearance of evil, and to be sober and solid, as becomes the truth. This is thy duty towards God. Be careful to be found in it; and as thou art found in the performance of this, the pure light and grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, which teacheth thee thy duty towards God and how to obey him, will also teach thee thy duty to thy parents, and in particular to thy dear mother, and also to thy sisters and brother.
Thou being the eldest at home, I expect thy care and diligence herein, in love and tenderness to thy dear mother, that so thou mayest be a strength and help to her now in my absence. I charge thee to look to it, as thou expectest a blessing from the Lord, and my favor and countenance. Also be careful that there be no strife between thee and thy sisters and brother upon any occasion, neither in words nor actions. But be tender and loving one to another, and be sure you all keep to truth's language, thee and thou to every single person.
And now to you Ann and Mary, my daughters and dear children, whom I dearly love, with all the rest. Be sure you speak no ill one of the other, nor do ill to any body. Carry no tales from one house to another. And when you are sent on an errand, go and come quickly. Be loving, kind, and respectful one to the other, and to your brethren, sister, and servants. And help one another willingly in all things, but especially your dear mother. Be dutiful and obedient unto her in all things. What she bids you do, I charge you, do it readily and willingly, without murmuring. My dear children, keep these my words in mind daily, that you may all serve one another in love.
And to you, little William and Emme, the youngest. My dear children, be sure you love one another. Do not fall out by the way when you go to school or in coming home. Do no hurt to any, and mind your books well that you may be good scholars. Be sure you remember what I say to you, and above all things be careful to do what your mother bids you, and to love your brother and sisters. Dear children, all of you mind your books. Read the Holy Scriptures, and the Lord bless and preserve you all in love, unity, peace, and quietness, fearing, serving, and loving God with all your hearts, and then all will be well.
I find a great alteration in my body because of the cruelty and hard usage of the jailer and his turnkey, together with the want of the fresh air. For I have had no liberty to walk abroad these several months, and the jailer doth not suffer me to speak or pray in any meeting after he hears me, for which the Lord will assuredly meet with him by his judgments.
I am thy loving husband, dear wife, and your tender father, dear children,
From my prison-house, in Carlisle, the 13th of the Seventh month, 1684.