By John Banks
On the 15th of the same month, in the evening, came the jailer and ordered Thomas Hall and myself to the common jail because we could not answer his unreasonable demands. Howbeit there was not room in the common jail, for it was wholly taken up with poor debtors and thieves. I having been sick for some time and not well recovered, a Friend said to the jailer, "If this our friend die through thy cruelty and hard usage, his blood will be required at thy hands." He answered that he did not care if I never stood upon my feet again, he would put me in the common jail. I asked him, if the place was fit for us to be put in; especially I, not being well. He said, it was such as he had for us, and we might either sit or lie as we could. And if there was not room for us to lie one by the other, we might lie one above the other. And if there was not room elsewhere, we might go into the sink, a nasty, stinking hole, filled up with filth and straw, which fulfils that saying, "The mercy of the wicked is cruelty."
Accordingly, he put us two among the debtors in the common jail where there was no convenient room either to sit or lie. And we were forced to sit in our clothes all night by the sink. But the next day the jailer caused a poor debtor to be removed to his house where he lodged him. Then we got some straw and bedding to lay on the ground, which was very raw and wet, in the debtor's place, and got stones for our bedstead, head and feet, where we were for the most part locked in day and night for thirteen days and nights together. And notwithstanding the weakness that attended me when I was put there and the nastiness of the place, the Lord was pleased to make it as a place of healing and restoration of health and strength to me so that when the jailer took me from that place again, as I was going down the street to the place from whence he took me, many people coming forth to look upon me, several said, " He looks better than he did when they put him into the common jail," which was cause of rejoicing to me, praises, honor, and glory be given to the most high God, who by his own healing, restoring, and preserving power can bring to pass whatsoever seems good in his eyes!
One passage more is fit to be taken notice of in order to set forth the cruelty and hardheartedness of the jailer. My dear wife, with other Friends, coming to visit me in the common jail, which was above twenty miles from my own house, she desired the jailer that he would do so much as suffer me to come out of the jail to some other place. But there being no compassion in him, he would not suffer me to come forth to her, but sent word by his turnkey that if she would be with me, she might in the common jail but no other place, where she did contentedly abide with me until the next day rather than leave me and go to a better place.
One time when I was doing some work in the common jail, the jailer came to me and said mockingly, "John, thou hast scarce light to thy work, (there being very little light in the prison,) but what matter," said he, "thou hast light enough within."
I answered, "Yes, blessed be the Lord my God for ever, so I have, but thou hast little of it. For if thou hadst more, thou wouldst see thy way better what to do than thou now doest." So he turned from me and said no more, but took my fellow prisoner, Thomas Hall, away from me at the end of thirteen days, and kept me there three days and nights more, and then removed me as aforesaid.
When the jailer saw that all his contrivances would not effect his purpose to make me bow and to get chamber rent of us, and being troubled in his conscience both day and night, as afterwards he confessed, slavish fear mixed with cruelty still attended him. So he betook himself to a new invented shift in order to hinder the sound of truth's testimony borne by me from reaching the people's ears. About this time I wrote the following paper:
To the inhabitants of the city of Carlisle, but more especially to such as cannot endure to hear the sound of a man's voice, though in prayer to the God of heaven or in exhortation to his fellow-prisoners or others to love and fear God and walk before him as becomes Christians, and yet can endure to hear men and women curse and swear, without reproof or punishment, and suffer drunkards to stagger and reel in the streets with curses and oaths, which I have often seen and heard to the grief of my soul since I came a prisoner into your city.
Under the consideration whereof, a necessity attends me to put you in mind what you have been and are doing, if happily you may come to see the evil you have done and repent and amend because we must all give an account unto the Lord of the deeds done in the body, whether good or evil.
What evil have I done or what law have I transgressed either against God or man? Show me if you can, and let it be known to people abroad what great crime I have committed or why I have been and am so abused; even such abuses as never were done, I presume, to any prisoner in this city before, either by jailer or others.
I say, what is the cause why I have been and am now so threatened and abused, being kept close prisoner in the common jail? Is it for praying to God or exhorting one another or warning people to repent that the jailer hath been so threatened and charged to take a course with me? He accordingly often hath abused me, also his turnkey, sometimes one and sometimes both, pulling and haling me off my knees when in prayer to God, both of them at one time taking me by the arm, throwing me down, and dragging me along the floor, threatening sometimes to throw me down the stairs. And yet thieves and robbers and other evil-doers have had liberty to worship in their way without disturbance.
Why are your ears so shut and you so troubled at the sound of truth, while your ears are so open to the contrary? Read the Scriptures and judge yourselves wherein you are short of a true Christian's practice under the Gospel dispensation, which never was to persecute and imprison for worshiping God. Read Psalm 58:1-5 and whether you are not such who are said to be "like the deaf adder that stoppeth her ear and will not hearken to the voice of the charmer, charming never so wisely." Do your ears hear reproof, or do you hate reproof and refuse instruction?
Consider your states and conditions what they are. Be not deceived, God is not mocked, such as every one of you sow, such shall you reap. They that sow to the flesh, shall of the flesh reap corruption. But they that sow to the spirit, shall of the Spirit reap life everlasting. What must you reap, think you? When will it enter into your hearts to consider, you who daily sow lying, swearing and drunkenness, whoredom, and pride, which are grown to that height in your city as though they should win it the crown. "But woe to the crown of pride, for it must be plagued." "And though hand join in hand, the wicked shall not be unpunished." "Though your brows be like brass, and your necks as iron sinews, and though you walk with stout and lofty looks, and tinkle with your feet as you go, the Lord can break and sow you, and turn all your songs into mourning, and your pride and vain glory, sport, pleasure and pastime, into howling and bitter lamentation, which he assuredly will do, except you repent, and amend your doings with speed, before it be too late."
Oh! why should people's ears be so shut against that which is good, and so set and bent to hear and do that which is evil, to believe lies rather than truth. Search the Scriptures and read in fear and with understanding Prov 17:45. "A wicked doer giveth heed to false lips, and a liar giveth heed to a naughty tongue." And Jer 5:21, 22. "Hear this, O foolish people and without understanding, which have eyes and see not, ears and hear not." See Matt 28:11-14. Who was it there whose ears were more desirous to have lies told them than the truth, though by those who were ear and eye witnesses? Was it not the chief priests and elders who did what in them lay, by holding a counsel together, to keep the truth of Christ's resurrection from the governor's ears; or if it did come to his ear, to endeavor to persuade him with lies?
Let search be made amongst you and examine yourselves and see whether there be not such chief priests and elders who do what in them lies to hinder the truth from coming to people's ears or to persuade them not to believe it. And see Acts 7:51, 52. Who were the stiff-necked that Stephen testified against, whom he calls uncircumcised in heart and ears? For it is said that they stopped their ears and ran upon him with one accord because he spoke the truth to them. And for the true testimony he bore, they stoned him to death. Read to the end of the chapter, and there you may find your examples, you stoners who have thrown stones at us and at our prison windows for no other cause than speaking the word of truth unto you in love to your souls.
And in Acts 17:18-20, see who it was in the city of Athens that called Paul a babbler or base fellow, a setter, forth of strange gods, for no other reason but because he preached Jesus and the resurrection, calling it a new doctrine and said that he brought strange things to their ears (and yet true,) but they liked not to hear it. And so some of them mocked and others said, "We will hear thee again of this matter."
Now all people search the Scriptures and see with the light of Jesus Christ, "The true light which lighteth every man that cometh into the world," of what kind your deeds are. For Christ saith, "This is the condemnation, that light is come into the world and men love darkness rather than light because their deeds are evil. For every one that doeth evil hateth the light, neither cometh to the light, lest his deeds should be reproved. But he that doeth truth cometh to the light that his deeds may be made manifest, that they are wrought in God."
I say unto all you, in whom there are any living desires and breathings to come out of the broad way that leads to destruction where many go and walk, come into the narrow way which few find.
Consider in the fear of the Lord what manner of lives you live and what fruits you bring forth, and see if the light of Christ, the Spirit of Truth, the faithful and true witness of God, his grace or word nigh unto you placed in your hearts and consciences, does not condemn you. And if your hearts condemn you, God is greater. But if your hearts condemn you not, then have you confidence towards God.
If any say, "If I should believe in this light, grace, word nigh, witness of God, or Spirit of Truth, which are all one, what will it do for me, for some say it is but a natural light?" I answer that it is a teacher in the heart and conscience, "teaching to deny ungodliness and worldly lusts, and to live soberly, righteously, and godly in this present world." Mark, not ungodly or rudely, as many do. This, the light of Christ, the grace of God, the Spirit of Truth, will do for thee if thou lovest it and believest in it.
When thou art tempted to sin, power from God will be given unto thee through it, which thou hast not of thyself, to overcome the wicked one in his temptations. For it is no sin to be tempted, but the sin is, to enter into the temptation. Thus power is given over the temptation, and so over sin. One temptation and sin after another is gradually overcome, for as many as believe in him who said "I am the light," to them he gives power to become the sons of God. He redeems them out of the state of the sons and daughters of the first Adam, who is of the earth, earthly, into the condition of the sons and daughters of the second Adam, the Lord from heaven, the quickening Spirit who never fell, (1 Cor. xv. 45, 46, 47.) who says, "Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If any man hear my voice and open unto me, I will come in and sup with him and he with me." Rev 3:20.
Is not He at the door of your hearts to call you to repentance by his light, grace, and Holy Spirit? And if there be not a believing in him by obeying the same, what availeth his death and suffering to you and the shedding of his precious blood for you, if sin be not finished here and transgression put to an end? Eph 5:5-21. "No unclean thing can enter into the kingdom of Christ and of God." Did not he suffer for the sins of all, that all through him might believe? "And they that believe not are condemned already."
Was not sin the cause wherefore he suffered, and if the cause, through faith in him, be not taken away, how shall the effect cease? But if the cause through faith in him be taken away, then the effect ceaseth, and everlasting felicity, world without end, ensueth.
So all people, in tender love to your souls I exhort you, while you have time, to prize it and make good use of it. Seriously consider what effects your faith and belief in Christ have wrought in order for your salvation and freedom from sin, that always separates from God. For as saith John, "This is that which gives victory over the world, even your faith." And if your faith be not such, ye cannot come to know the victory over the world and the evil that is in it.
Let none think that the name of a Christian will save him. For to have a Christian's name, and yet to be found in the practice of the heathen, does not make a Christian. It is the life and practice of Christianity lived in through faith in Christ that makes Christians, and not barely saying that you believe. And this life and practice is a life of "holiness, without which none shall see the Lord."
Now to the faithful and true witness of God in your hearts and consciences, that will either accuse or excuse, I commend these things to be weighed and truly considered by you in moderation and the fear of the Lord, as becomes Christians, and what manner of life, conversation, and practice is found amongst you. "Know ye not," saith the apostle, "that to whom ye yield yourselves to obey, his servants ye are, whether of sin unto death or of obedience unto righteousness." For when the book of your conscience comes to be opened, with that other book which is the book of life, according as your deeds and actions shall be found therein, so shall your reward be, in which day of general resurrection we must all appear before the tribunal of God's glory and judgment seat to receive the sentence, either "Come, ye blessed" or "Go, ye cursed."
From one who truly wisheth and desireth the welfare and preservation both of the bodies and souls of all people and hates nothing but the evil in any, and yet am a sufferer in outward bonds tor the testimony of Jesus and of a good conscience,
Given forth in the common jail in the city of Carlisle, Cumberland, the 30th day of the Seventh month, 1684.
The sixth day of the week, and also the First-day following, being the 3rd and 5th days of the eighth month, so soon as the jailer perceived that we were met together, being thirty-eight prisoners, he sent his turnkey to take us all away one by one and put us in a back room to have our meeting, and then let us go to our places. But growing weary of this work, the sound of my voice still reaching to the street, he sought out a place in the city to his mind. And removed both himself and us and placed us in rooms back from the street, in a court enclosed with gates, which he ordered to be shut when our meeting began, especially on the First-days.
Since we were so removed and placed, we have enjoyed our meetings pretty peaceably, both as to the jailer and the rest of the city, and gained our freedom and liberty, not only in prison and in and about the city, but at times to go home, far beyond what could have been expected, praises, honor, and glory for evermore be unto the Lord our God, who never leaves nor forsakes his people that stand faithful in their testimony for him. He by his great power is with them to uphold and preserve them and also in his own time to work their deliverance and to give them dominion and victory over all their enemies, endless praises over all unto him who rules and reigns for ever and evermore. Amen!
After I was liberated by the act of grace, I traveled in the work of the ministry into the West of England where I wrote the following letters to my wife and children:
Dear wife, together with my dear children,
My heart being open in the love of God in a living remembrance of you all, as at many other times, when my supplications are put up unto the Lord for his people, I could do no less than write a few lines to express how I am concerned for your growth and prosperity in the truth, every one in your several measures.
The Lord beget and increase love in your hearts to him and one towards another so that therein you may feel life and true tenderness to spring afresh in your souls as a testimony that you are kept near unto the Lord in an inward waiting and dependance in fear before him. It is these who are kept near unto the Lord in their hearts who are living, fresh, and tender. For he causes his heavenly rain and gracious showers to be poured forth upon them and the springs of life to bubble up in them so that they are made to say, "What manner of love is this, wherewithal the Lord our God hath loved us! And what manner of persons ought we to be, in all holy life and conversation to the end that we may live and die the death of the righteous, that so it may be well with us, when time here shall be no more."
Carefully mind the performance of your duty towards God daily, fearing and obeying him, in what you know of him by his light and grace in your hearts, be it never so little; for as you are faithful in the little, the Lord will make you rulers over more. And as you thus come to know a growth and increase, you will also come to understand what it is to have heavenly treasure in earthen vessels, which is far better than earthly riches and worldly glory, with strife and contention.
Truth prospers very much hereaway. Great desires are begotten in many people after the way thereof. Meetings are full and large almost everywhere in the counties where I have of late been, and in Somersetshire, Dorsetshire, Devonshire. It was thought there were near a thousand people at the meeting at Spiceland where I was yesterday.
Yea, the work is great here, but the laborers are very few among themselves. Oh, that the Lord would be pleased to fit, prepare, and send forth more! I hope I may say, and exclude all boasting, that the Lord hath been pleased to make my service not only acceptable to many, but effectual to answer the end wherefore he hath sent me, so that my travel and exercises are made very sweet and comfortable unto me, and Friends' love, tenderness and respect are towards me, being glad to see me after my long imprisonment, and I have had blessed heavenly times among them. All which considered greatly bows my spirit, and lays me low before the Lord.
I have had five or six meetings in a week. My companion left me about three weeks ago, having something upon his mind for London. And I being not yet clear of this county and feeling a concern upon me for some counties more, I do not see that I am likely to reach the Yearly Meeting at London this year, though I must go there before I return home. But when, I cannot give any further account at present.
Farewell, my dear.
From Spiceland in Devonshire, the 25th of the Third month, 1691.
My dear heart,
It is with me to say unto thee and thine that the sacrifice of a broken heart and a contrite spirit the Lord accepteth and never did nor will despise, though offered with sighs and groans that cannot be uttered. In this the Lord keep and preserve you all, which is the way to grow in grace and saving knowledge and to receive a blessing from his hand, which enricheth the soul, and is better than all earthly enjoyments, which are but for a moment.
Surely methinks I am always with you, in travail and concern of mind for your preservation every way, as I hope you are with me in my travels and various exercises both of body and spirit, which the Lord hath been pleased to make sweet and comfortable unto me. And I believe that he hath also blessed my endeavors and labor of love for the good of many where I have traveled. It is the great rejoicing of my soul to see the work of the Lord prosper, which he is hastening in the earth, for his own Seed's sake. Blessed are all who answer him by obedience when he calls, and in faithfulness continue unto the end; unto which, with my own soul, the Lord preserve you all. Amen!
By these, thou with all thine, and Friends, may know that I am well every way, high praises unto the worthy name of the Lord forever!
I came to this city the last Sixth-day and have had five meetings since, in all which the Lord was pleased to appear effectually by his power and life-giving presence. Meetings here are very full and peaceable, and many people have great desires after the truth. Oh! that those who have long made profession thereof may be found good examples in their places, so as to answer the testimony of truth and the witness of God in people's consciences, which would greatly tend to further his work and cause truth to prevail more upon people and which the contrary hinders. Wherefore, blessed are the faithful.
London, the 9th of the Fifth month, 1691.
The above is the last letter I wrote to my dear wife, Anne Banks. She died the 2nd day of the tenth month, after the date of the aforesaid letter, early in the morning and was buried the fourth day after in the burying-place of Friends at Eglesfield in Cumberland.
We lived comfortably together many years, and she was a careful, industrious woman, bringing up her children in good order as became the truth, in speech, behavior, and habit. She was a meet-help and a good support to me in my travels, always ready and willing in truth's service and was never known to murmur, though I often had to leave her with a weak family, notwithstanding the exercises in many affairs she had to pass through. She was well beloved amongst Friends and her neighbors, several hundreds of whom were at her burial.
In the time of her sickness, she was very patient and content unto the last, being sensible of her inward condition and end, telling me she must leave me, that it was well with her, and that it would be well with her forever. She also said she hoped I would be, as I had been, a careful and tender father to her children who were dear and near to her. And in some time after, she ended her days in peace with the Lord and I am well satisfied of her eternal well-being.
Though our separation by death was the greatest trial I ever met with, yet the Lord in whom I trust was and is my preserver in that and many other deep trials and exercises, to whom I am deeply engaged in all humility to give the praise and return him honor and glory, who is God over all, blessed forever. Amen!
I have used much brevity in respect to many of my journeys and exercises, not being willing to make a great volume. It remains to be noticed that often I have visited Friends' meetings from Cumberland to London, and in London, and into the West of England, in my way thither and home, both before and after the Yearly Meetings; and in many other journeys beside from the year 1688 to the year 1702.
This year, going to London to the Yearly Meeting, I sent the following letter to my children:
My dear love in the truth is hereby remembered unto you and Friends. By these you and they may know that I am well, with your brethren and sisters. I am in haste, being the tenth hour at night, since I with seven Friends from Ireland here are to take our journey towards Chester early tomorrow, if the Lord will, and then for that nation; and therefore I have not time to write to you what I desire.
We have had a long and tedious time with that contentious man, George Keith, for several days together. He is of a very turbulent and troublesome spirit, vexatious to the church of Christ. But the power of God, for all his quarreling, is over him, and the life of our meetings runs in one channel to set the judgment of truth upon his head. For it was clearly made manifest unto us, in the light of the Lord Jesus Christ, that he was not only gone into and entertained the spirit of division and separation, but of envy and deep deceit, by which he warred strongly to prove Friends in the ministry to preach false doctrine, and himself the true, chiefly about the body of Christ, and the light within. But by the unruliness of his spirit, and the darkness that he is gone into, he hath so manifested himself that all his enticing words could take no place with us. The Lord preserve Friends in the innocency and simplicity of the truth, where is true unity, peace and safety from the destroyer. For wit and wisdom, in the strength of man's reason, darken and stop the springs of life.
Your loving father,
London, the 8th of the Fourth month, 1694.
I traveled through the nation of Ireland five times and once from Carrickfergus to Dublin, being the first time, though I omit, for brevity sake, to mention how I traveled from place to place, and the length of time and number of miles. I also traveled in Scotland and there visited the people of God, and in the Isle of Man.
While I was in Ireland, I wrote the following letters to my children:
The love of God unto you hath been such as to give you a knowledge of himself, in and through Jesus Christ the true and saving light. And that which is required of you is obedience and a diligent walking therein in all fear, humility, and lowliness of mind. For that greatly tends to make sure the steps in the way of truth and righteousness and it is such that the Lord teacheth, viz, the humble, by his pure light and grace.
Oh! that a daily care may attend you to follow him in all faithfulness in answer to his blessed requirings, whether in words or actions, at home or abroad, for this is well-pleasing unto him and a rejoicing unto my soul, who am still under a weighty concern and tender care for your preservation every way in that which is good, and more especially seeing the Lord hath been pleased to take your dear mother from us.
I have no greater joy than to know that you grow in the truth and that you are loving and tenderly affectionate one to the other, in patience and quietness of mind bearing one with another in all affairs wherein you are concerned, so will your undertakings be more easy and comfortable unto you. Do what in you lies to keep to meetings, and be condescending one to the other therein.
And when you are met together with the Lord's people, let the fear and dread of the Lord be upon you, that you may be kept in all diligence in waiting upon him, daily to feel the work of his spirit in your hearts, to work you into true tenderness and brokenness so that you may grow up and bring forth fruit, to the praise and glory of the Lord, and your enduring comfort, which is my hearty prayer unto the Lord on your behalf.
We had a very heavenly meeting here in their new meeting-house, where never meeting was before and are to have a meeting tomorrow at Youghall, next day at Cork, where the province Six-week's meeting begins; two meetings there the First-day, men's and women's meeting the Second-day, and are to go ten miles to a meeting on Third-day at Bandon. Then we will go fourteen miles to a meeting further west on Fourth-day and forty-eight miles back again by Cork to a meeting at Charleville on Sixth-day.
My acceptable companion, James Lancaster, desires his love remembered to you, and Friends. Farewell, dear children,
Your loving father,
Waterford in Ireland, the 4th of the Fifth month, 1694.
Dear children, John and Mary,
That true love and fatherly care which chiefly attends me concerning you is that you may grow in grace and saving knowledge which edify the soul and in a sense and feeling of that witness, the divine touches of the love of God, to tender your hearts before him, among his people, and at other times. Carefully follow those things in the course of your life that make for peace with him, according to the teachings of his Holy Spirit, by which the Lord hath measurably given you a knowledge of himself and his will, what he would have you to do and how to walk before him and all people. Oh! therefore, that you may fear, love, and obey him with all your hearts, so will you be kept humble and low, which is safe and good for all, but more especially for youth, because their natural inclinations are too often aspiring, that is, climbing up and getting high. But the truth, which is his love to the sons and daughters of men, manifested in and through Jesus Christ, being kept to and lived in, humbles the heart and brings and keeps down the wild nature where safety from many hurtful things is experienced.
By these, you and my friends may know, that I, with my companion, J. L., are well, praises be given to him who lives for ever! We have traveled through the south and west of this nation to this place a second time and intend, if the Lord will, to go towards the north the next Second-day. And if I find myself clear when I have gone through the north, I may turn homeward, which, if so, will be some time in the eighth month. But this is more than I yet clearly see, and so must leave it at present.
The work is great in this nation, and the laborers are but few. Yet the Lord hath here a blessed, zealous people for his name and truth, filled with love to his servants. This is largely manifested in accompanying us from one meeting and place to another, from ten to twenty and more in company at one time, the length of twenty-five miles, though in the time of harvest (mind that), and three traveled from this city above one hundred miles with us, that is, Amos Strettell, Samuel Baker, and Joseph Hankes, considerable dealers in outward affairs. And two also intend to travel with us from this city into the north, viz., Abel Strettell and Peter Fletcher. This I write as an example for others to take notice of, which in love I leave to their consideration, who may see these lines.
Your loving father,
Dublin, the 18th of the Sixth month, 1694.
After I saw it my place and service to settle in Somersetshire, which was in the year 1696, I often traveled in the counties and shires adjacent, and also to the Land's End in Cornwall, laboring together with Friends to keep up meetings for the worship of God, First-day and week-day. And not only so, but to keep up and maintain the good order of truth and to have the same put in practice. And the Lord hath been pleased to make use of me as an instrument of his own fitting and preparing to convince several, some of whom became faithful and able ministers in their day. And some of them have finished their Lord and Master's work and are at rest with him in glory. The Lord keep and preserve them, with my soul and all his everywhere, diligent and faithful unto the end. Amen!