The Journal of John Woolman
The Journal of John Woolman
Thirteenth of ninth month.—This day I was at Leyburn, a small meeting; but, the towns-people coming in, the house was crowded. It was a time of heavy labor, and I believe was a profitable meeting. At this place I heard that my kinsman, William Hunt, from North Carolina, who was on a religious visit to Friends in England, departed this life on the 9th of this month, of the small-pox, at Newcastle. He appeared in the ministry when a youth, and his labors therein were of good savor. He travelled much in that work in America. I once heard him say in public testimony, that his concern in that visit was to be devoted to the service of Christ so fully that he might not spend one minute in pleasing himself, which words, joined with his example, was a means of stirring up the pure mind in me.
Having of late often travelled in wet weather through narrow streets in towns and villages, where dirtiness under foot and the scent arising from that filth which more or less infects the air of all thickly settled towns were disagreeable; and, being but weakly, I have felt distress both in body and mind with that which is impure. In these journeys I have been where much cloth hath been dyed, and have, at sundry times, walked over ground where much of their dye-stuffs has drained away. This hath produced a longing in my mind that people might come into cleanness of spirit, cleanness of person, and cleanness about their houses and garments.
Some of the great carry delicacy to a great height themselves, and yet real cleanliness is not generally promoted. Dyes being invented partly to please the eye and partly to hide dirt, I have felt in this weak state, when travelling in dirtiness, and affected with unwholesome scents, a strong desire that the nature of dyeing cloth to hide dirt may be more fully considered.
Washing our garments to keep them sweet is cleanly, but it is the opposite to real cleanliness to hide dirt in them. Through giving way to hiding dirt in our garments a spirit which would conceal that which is disagreeable is strengthened. Real cleanliness becometh a holy people; but hiding that which is not clean by coloring our garments seems contrary to the sweetness of sincerity. Through some sorts of dyes cloth is rendered less useful. And if the value of dye-stuffs, and expense of dyeing, and the damage done to cloth, were all added together, and that cost applied to keeping all sweet and clean, how much more would real cleanliness prevail.
On this visit to England I have felt some instructions sealed on my mind, which I am concerned to leave in writing for the use of such as are called to the station of a minister of Christ.
Christ being the Prince of Peace, and we being no more than ministers, it is necessary for us not only to feel a concern in our first going forth, but to experience the renewing thereof in the appointment of meetings. I felt a concern in America to prepare for this voyage, and being through the mercy of God brought safe hither, my heart was like a vessel that wanted vent. For several weeks after my arrival, when my mouth was opened in meetings, it was like the raising of a gate in a water-course when a weight of water lay upon it. In these labors there was a fresh visitation to many, especially to the youth; but sometimes I felt poor and empty, and yet there appeared a necessity to appoint meetings. In this I was exercised to abide in the pure life of truth, and in all my labors to watch diligently against the motions of self in my own mind.
I have frequently found a necessity to stand up when the spring of the ministry was low, and to speak from the necessity in that which subjecteth the will of the creature; and herein I was united with the suffering seed, and found inward sweetness in these mortifying labors. As I have been preserved in a watchful attention to the divine Leader, under these dispensations enlargement at times hath followed, and the power of truth hath risen higher in some meetings than I ever knew it before through me. Thus I have been more and more instructed as to the necessity of depending, not upon a concern which I felt in America to come on a visit to England, but upon the daily instructions of Christ, the Prince of Peace.
Of late I have sometimes felt a stop in the appointment of meetings, not wholly, but in part: and I do not feel liberty to appoint them so quickly, one after another, as I have done heretofore. The work of the ministry being a work of Divine love, I feel that the openings thereof are to be waited for in all our appointments. O, how deep is Divine wisdom! Christ puts forth his ministers and goeth before them; and O, how great is the danger of departing from the pure feeling of that which leadeth safely! Christ knoweth the state of the people, and in the pure feeling of the gospel ministry their states are opened to his servants. Christ knoweth when the fruit-bearing branches themselves have need of purging. O that these lessons may be remembered by me! and that all who appoint meetings may proceed in the pure feeling of duty!
I have sometimes felt a necessity to stand up, but that spirit which is of the world hath so much prevailed in many, and the pure life of truth hath been so pressed down, that I have gone forward, not as one travelling in a road cast up and well prepared, but as a man walking through a miry place in which are stones here and there safe to step on, but so situated that one step being taken, time is necessary to see where to step next. Now I find that in a state of pure obedience the mind learns contentment in appearing weak and foolish to that wisdom which is of the world; and in these lowly labors, they who stand in a low place and are rightly exercised under the cross will find nourishment. The gift is pure; and while the eye is single in attending thereto the understanding is preserved clear; self is kept out. We rejoice in filling up that which remains of the afflictions of Christ for his body’s sake, which is the church.
The natural man loveth eloquence, and many love to hear eloquent orations, and if there be not a careful attention to the gift, men who have once labored in the pure gospel ministry, growing weary of suffering, and ashamed of appearing weak, may kindle a fire, compass themselves about with sparks, and walk in the light, not of Christ, who is under suffering, but of that fire which they in departing from the gift have kindled, in order that those hearers who have left the meek, suffering state for worldly wisdom may be warmed with this fire and speak highly of their labors. That which is of God gathers to God, and that which is of the world is owned by the world.
In this journey a labor hath attended my mind, that the ministers among us may be preserved in the meek, feeling life of truth, where we may have no desire but to follow Christ and to be with him, that when he is under suffering, we may suffer with him, and never desire to rise up in dominion, but as he, by the virtue of his own spirit, may raise us.