1 mo. 5. -- The subject of the prophet's going down to the potter's house opened so clearly on my mind in meeting this morning that I thought I could almost have publicly declared it; but not feeling that weight and certainty which I had apprehended should accompany the performance of such an important act, I was afraid of imparting that to others which might be intended only for my own instruction; and so it has ended for the present. But I am thankful in hoping that I am come a little nearer to that state of resignation which was so beautifully exemplified by our great Pattern of all good, who when He desired the bitter cup might pass from Him, nevertheless added, "Not my will, but thine be done." And if I am at all acquainted with my inward feelings, I trust I can in some degree of sincerity say that my heart desires to rejoice more in the progress of this state of happy resignation, than at the increase of corn, wine, or oil.
He first opened his mouth in religious testimony in the First Month of this year. The occurrence seems to have taken place in his own family; it yielded him a "precious sense of the Divine Presence." He began to preach in public a few months later, but not without another struggle against the heavenly impulse.
The friendship which Joseph Wood entertained for John Yeardley strengthened with revolving years. When he visited Barnsley, he was accustomed to lodge at his house; and writing to him in the year 1811, about a public meeting which he felt concerned to hold, he says, "I can with freedom write to thee, feeling that unity with thy spirit which preserves us near and dear to each other, and in which freedom runs."
In the Fourth Month of this year, when Joseph Wood received a certificate to visit some of the midland counties, J.Y. felt desirous "of setting him a little on his way."
On the 14th, he says, we went to Woodhouse, where we had a meeting, and my friend was enabled to speak very closely to the states of many present. When in the meeting, I felt a very weighty exercise to attend my mind with an intimation publicly to express it. But this exposure I dared not yield to, under an apprehension that it might be wrong in me, considering the occasion on which I had come out; but truly I left the place under a burden which I was scarcely able to bear.
It was on the 20th of the Fourth Month that he began to speak in public as a minister of the Gospel. He thus records the event: --
I felt myself in such a resigned frame of mind in our little week-day meeting, that I could not doubt the time was fully come for me to be relieved from that state of unspeakable oppression which my poor mind had been held in for so many years past. Soon after I took my seat, my mind became unusually calm, and the presence of the Most High seemed so to abound in my heart and spread over the meeting, that after some inward conflict I was unavoidably constrained publicly to express it, in nearly the following words: "I think I have so sensibly felt the precious influence of divine love to overshadow our little gathering, that I have been ready to say, It is good for us to be here; or I might rather say, It is good for us to feel ourselves under the precious influence of that protecting power which can alone preserve us from the snares of death." This first [public] act of submission to the divine will was done with as much stability of mind and body as I was capable of; and I thought the Friends present seemed sensible of my situation and sympathized with me under the exercise. I trust the sweet peace which I afterwards felt was a seal to my belief that I had been favored with divine compassion and approbation in the needful time.
In the Fifth Month John Yeardley attended for the first time the Yearly Meeting in London. He describes the business as very various and instructive, but bewails his own condition as that of "one starving in the midst of every good thing."
It seemed at times, he says, as though Satan himself was let loose upon me, and permitted to try my faith and patience to the utmost; but I hope the conflict had its use in teaching me to know that it is not by might, nor by power, but by the Lord's Spirit, that we are enabled to prevail.
This was the commencement of another season of spiritual poverty. In reading a few of his memoranda during this time, many a Christian traveller may see his own mourning countenance reflected as in a glass.
11 mo.8. -- I have for a long time felt so depressed in spirit, and so inwardly stripped of every appearance of good, that I have often secretly had to say with tried Job, "O that I were as in months past, as in the days when God preserved me!"
16th. -- Death and darkness are still the covering of my poor mind, and I am ashamed to acknowledge that I have for months past sat meeting after meeting a victim to the baneful consequences of wandering thoughts, scarcely being able to recollect myself so much as to ask excuse of Him who sees in secret. In these times of deepest desertion I am selfish enough to feel a longing desire for a ray of light or a smile from the countenance of Him, under whose banner I have many times sat with the greatest delight in days that are past.
O, how hard it is to regain divine favor when once sacrificed through the sorrowful act of disobedience! O may I sit as in dust and ashes, and, with the noble resignation and spirit of a true, dedicated follower, say, I will patiently hear the indignation of the Lord, because I have sinned against him!
Nevertheless, even in his times of deepest humiliation, moments of heavenly comfort were interspersed.
11 mo.23. -- A more improved meeting than I had reason to hope from cross occurrences, which are too apt to ruffle the unstable mind. Daring our silent sitting together, I was comforted in contemplating the many encouraging passages we have left on sacred record; two of which, spoken by one of large experience, were particularly solacing to my exercised feelings: "Many are the afflictions of the righteous, but the Lord delivereth him out of them all;" and "The young lions do lack and suffer hunger, but they that seek the Lord shall not want any good thing." O, thought I, if we could only procure Him on our side who has the thoughts of all men in his keeping, what should we have to fear! We should then be brought to acknowledge that it behooves a Christian traveller to crave the assistance of Him who can enable us to suffer with becoming fortitude and resignation all the afflicting dispensations of life, rather than desire to be preserved from meeting them.
The hard mutter which is the subject of the next extract embodies a difficulty that has perplexed many. It is always encouraging to find companionship in doubts and trials, and perhaps the consideration which pacified the mind of John Yeardley may be helpful to some who are tried in the same way. The passage, no doubt, has reference to his own want of better success in business.
11 mo. 30. -- When any circumstance in the common course of life, which has appeared to turn up in the direction of Divine Providence, has not answered my expectation, or on deliberate consideration it has not seemed prudent for me to step into it, I have sometimes felt greatly discouraged, and been ready to conclude, How could this thing be ordered under the direction of best wisdom! But let me ever remember, He who has his way in the whirlwind knows what is best for us; and were it not for these incitements to an exercise of feeling, the mind would be apt to lie dormant, and not be preserved alive in a proper state to prove all things and hold fast that which is best.
About the end of the year he was obliged to spend several days in London on business. The course of his affairs seems to have been uneven, and the great city was probably uncongenial to his retired habits. He says: --
12 mo.15. -- I do not remember that my feelings were ever more discouraging, both inwardly and outwardly. When the mind is ruffled about the things of time, it is hard work to make any progress towards the land of peace. I try to get to the well of water; but truly it may be said I have nothing to draw with.
Yet even under these circumstances his daily religious practices -- those which no competitor for the meed of peace and the crown of glory can dispense with -- were not without avail.
16th. -- In reading and retirement before I left my room, I received a little hope that I should be preserved in a good degree of patience through the cross occurrences of the day, which was measurably the case.
The life of a Christian is very much the history of outward and inward trials. How happy it is when these serve only to deepen his experience! The nature of John Yeardley's spiritual trials has been fully shown: his temporal crosses have also been glanced at; they consisted mainly of want of success in business, in which, indeed, he was little fitted to excel, under the keen competition of modern times.
1816.1 mo.4. -- A new year has commenced, but the old afflictions are still continued, both inwardly and outwardly; for even in temporal affairs disappointments rage high. But O what a privilege to sink down to the anchor-hope of divine support! This is what I can feelingly acknowledge this evening to be as a brook by the way to refresh my poor and long-distressed mind. O, how ardently do I desire that this season of adversity may be sanctified to me for everlasting good, and prove the means of slaying that will in me, which has too long been opposed to the will of Him who paid the ransom for my soul with nothing less than the price of his own precious blood.
The difficulty of making his way in the commercial world increased until the risk of "failure began to stare him in the face." The fear of such a result sank him exceedingly low; but through all he was permitted to keep his footing upon the rock, and to behold a spiritual blessing under the guise of temporal adversity.
7th. -- Surely it is a mark of divine favor to feel the supporting hand of my heavenly Father underneath, to bear up my drooping spirits in this time of adversity. I think I was never more sensible of his powerful arm being made bare for my deliverance; and yet, unaccountable to tell, I am almost afraid to trust in him. O, my soul, wherefore dost thou doubt, when thou feelest the glorious presence of thy Redeemer's countenance to shine upon thee?
In the meeting this morning, he continues, my mind was profitably exercised in contemplating the following subject. When our dear Lord was about to perform the miracle of feeding the multitude, he commanded them to sit down upon the grass. They were undoubtedly hungry, and this might create in them too great an anxiety to be satisfied in their own time; but that all things might be done in order, and without interruption, they were commanded to sit down and wait the disposal of their food from the bountiful hand of their great Master. In looking at the subject, I thought it a lively representation of the state of mind we ought to labor after, when favored to feel hunger and thirst after righteousness; not frustrating the design of the Most High by being too anxious to be filled in our own will and way, but patiently waiting the time of Him who giveth to all their meat in due season, and that which is most convenient for them. And what greater privilege could we desire than to be fed at the Lord's table?
9th. -- As my precious wife and I were consoling each other this evening, she remarked that the dispensation we were now suffering under was probably in answer to our prayers. This brought strikingly to my remembrance a secret petition which I have frequently put up in the most fervent manner I have been capable of, when deeply lamenting my unsubjected will; I have even cried out aloud, "O make me willing; do, Lord, make me willing, make me willing!"
O then may I submit to the means, if for this end they are appointed, and resign my all, body, soul and spirit, into the hands of Him who gave them; and may I patiently endure the swelling of Jordan in a manner that will enable me to bring from the bottom, stones of everlasting memorial.
After this he was led for a while by the Good Shepherd into the green pastures and beside the still waters.
1st mo.15. -- Our Monthly Meeting at Wakefield, and a heavenly meeting it was.
29th. -- I left home for a journey into the north on business. I had many precious seasons of retirement as I rode along, and I humbly trust my soul has been enabled to cultivate a more intimate acquaintance with her Beloved, in such a way as will not easily be erased from my remembrance.
Notwithstanding the deep and varied experience he had passed through, his unwillingness to expose himself as a preacher of the gospel was still strong, and sometimes obstructed the performance of his duty.
8 mo.20. -- Joseph Wood had a public meeting at Pilley. I felt something on my spirit to communicate to the people in the early part, but thinking the meeting was not sufficiently settled to receive it, I reasoned away the right time; another did not offer during the whole meeting for me to relieve my poor mind, so I brought my burden home with me, which indeed proved such as I really thought I should have sunk under.
The "severe stripes," as he terms it, which he received on this occasion at length produced a willing mind.
9 mo.10. -- I went with my dear wife to attend the burial of my cousin Joseph Watts at Woodhouse, and was at the meeting there on Fourth-day the 11th. It was largely attended by relations and friends. I felt so sensibly the danger that some present were in of trifling away the reproofs of conviction, that I could not forbear reviving the language which was proclaimed to the Prophet Jonah, when he had fled from the presence of the Lord and was fallen asleep in the ship, "What meanest thou, O sleeper, arise, call upon thy God." After commenting a little on the subject, I sat down under great solemnity which seemed to cover the meeting, and I can thankfully say the fruit of obedience was sweet to my taste.
12 mo.1. -- Went to meeting this morning with a fearful apprehension lest I should have to expose myself in that which is so contrary to my natural inclination. And so it proved; for I had not sat long, before I was made willing to express what rested weightily on my mind, and that was the case of Gideon, when the angel appeared to him under the oak as he threshed wheat. I commented a little on the subject, which afforded me great satisfaction and joy.
In the following entry, notwithstanding the tardy obedience which it records, we find his commission as one of the Lord's watchmen sealed upon his mind.
1817.4 mo.7. In meeting yesterday morning I was enabled publicly to relieve myself of a little matter which had been a burden on my mind for two or three meetings past, in which I had felt pretty smartly the rod which, is held over the head of the disobedient. In this instance, human nature seemed stubborn in a double degree, but after it was over I felt my peace flow as a river. Methinks I now hear this language proclaimed in the secret of my heart: I have made thee a watchman unto the house of Israel; therefore hear the word at my mouth, and give them warning from me. O what an important charge! May I duly consider the weight of it, and so watch over my own conduct, in thought, word and action, that I may not be pulling down with one hand that which I may be endeavoring to build up with the other. If I am to be an instrument in the hand of the Almighty, may he graciously condescend to prepare and sharpen the arrows he may see meet to shoot through the medium of his poor servant, so that they may sink deep, wound the hypocrite, and comfort the pure divine life in the hearts of his children.
A few weeks after this, John Yeardley attended a remarkable meeting held by Joseph Wood, in which they were made to sit in heavenly places in Christ Jesus.
4 mo.29. -- I attended another public meeting appointed by J.W. at Middletown, about ten miles from here. When I entered the town I felt very flat, and was ready to say, The fear of the Lord is not in this place; but after the meeting was gathered, I soon found what poor creatures we are, to judge of these things without waiting for best direction; for I think it was the most extraordinary time I ever knew. My friend bore a long and powerful testimony, to the tendering of many present. If I ever forget it while in my natural senses, I fear I shall be near losing my habitation the truth; for it was as if heaven opened, and the Most High poured down his blessed Spirit in an unbounded degree.
All this time his business affairs went on more and more adversely; and although he never failed punctually to meet all his money engagements, his want of success led in this year to a change of residence to Bentham.
Three months before he left Barnsley he writes: --
"Surely there is a vein for the silver, and a place for gold where they fine it." Pecuniary difficulties seem as if they would eat up every green thing; but I hope and trust that He who has often said, Peace, be still, will so regulate the heat of the furnace that I may be able to bear it with becoming patience, until there be nothing left in me but what resembles the pure gold fit for the Master's use. When I reflect on what my poor mind has passed through for more than two years past, I am convinced nothing short of that Arm which brought the Israelites through the Red Sea could have supported me. And O, should he ever loose my hands, that I may serve Him freely, may I never forget the many covenants made with Him who has so often heard and answered my prayer when in deep distress!
Through the assistance of some of his Barnsley friends, an offer was made to him of a situation in a flax-spinning mill at Bentham, which was then or had lately been the property of Charles Parker, a minister in the Society of Friends. He accepted the offer; and an extract from a letter to his wife, when on a journey, will show the motives under which he acted in this important step.
Hawkshead, 6 mo.28, 1817.
MY VERY PRECIOUS DEAR,
When I wrote thee last, my time and feelings would not permit me to say much on our impending prospect of leaving Barnsley; but since then this very important subject has obtained my most serious and weighty consideration, and I am now free to communicate to thee my feelings, in order that thou mayest weigh them duly and compare them with thy own while we are separated. In the first place, in taking such a step, we must be reconciled to sacrifice our present comfortable home, our relations and friends -- in short, all that may seem near and dear to us as to the outward. With respect to our spiritual prospect, I must confess, if any service is designed for me in the Church militant, I have sometimes apprehended it might be within the compass of our present Particular and Monthly Meetings; but should this be ordered otherwise in best wisdom, I trust I shall be relieved from the oppressive feeling, and in a short time see my way clear. On the other hand, if this change takes place, we have a probability of a comfortable living, and of being relieved from the extreme anxiety attendant on trade, when the whole responsibility rests on our own shoulders.
H.R. [one of the firm who had offered to employ him] seemed rather desirous for me to come. If we should agree, he wants me to go over directly to lay down plans for a few weavers' houses, and to make other arrangements to save time until we could remove.
I don't much like the situation of the house in the town, but I think another might be had if required. They have a nice one in Low Bentham, with a good garden attached, which would be at liberty in next Fifth Month; this would be a pleasant walk from the mill by the water-side all the way, which might be useful to my health after being confined in the warehouse, and much nearer to the meeting. It is a very small meeting indeed; there are only about two female Friends; but, should we be in the right place, the smallness of the number would not preclude our access to the divine spring.
I don't know how we shall come on with the thread trade, but it seems as if we were to be done out with both thread and linens, for there is scarcely any thing selling with me on this journey.
John Yeardley and his wife removed to Bentham in the Eighth Month, 1817. Bentham is a considerable village on the north-west border of Yorkshire, a few miles from the foot of Ingleborough; and it was at that time, according to the division of the county adopted by the Society of Friends, comprised in the Monthly Meeting of Settle.
After a season of deep spiritual poverty, during which he found no place for the exercise of his gift, John Yeardley began to speak in ministry in the little meeting to which he now belonged. On recording the circumstance he remarks: --
Thus does a gracious Father lead on his children step by step, baptizing them first into one state and then into another, in order to qualify them to drop a word in season for the comfort of others. Little did I think under the recent buffetings of the Enemy, that I should ever have had to open my mouth again in the way of declaring the everlasting goodness of a gracious Redeemer.
This memorandum was made a few days after the occurrence to which it refers, on his return from Settle Monthly Meeting, and is accompanied the record of a fresh unfolding to his mental eye of the need of gospel laborers, and of his own vocation to the work. In my return I had rather an unusual opening into the state of society, and the great want of laborers therein; and querying with myself, By whom shall the Lord send? I thought I felt the weight and power of the everlasting gospel upon me to preach, so that I was willing to say, Here am I; send me. O the importance of this language! May the same Spirit, which I trust raised it in my heart preserve me in every state to the end of time! Amen.
The extract which follows treats of the same subject, -- the calling and exercise of the ministry. From this, and from the whole tenor of what has been extracted from the Diary, will be seen in what his ministry consisted, and what was the call and the power which was required in every successive exercise of it. May it serve as a word of caution and instruction to such as are disposed to reduce this heavenly gift to a mere effort of Christian good-will, or to consider the exercise of it as placed, whether in regard to time or subject, at the disposal of the minister. It will be observed how John Yeardley, in after life so abundant in word and doctrine, and so catholic in his ideas and sympathies, received his vocation as a divine gift immediately from above, and served in it an apprenticeship altogether spiritual, and apart from human learning or instruction.
10 mo.26. -- I have been very much instructed to-day in reading and reflecting on the 37th chapter of Ezekiel. When the prophet was asked if the dry bones could live, he was wise enough cautiously to answer, "O Lord God, thou knowest;" but when he was commanded to prophesy unto them, and say, "O ye dry bones, hear the word of the Lord," this was hard work, yet there was no conferring with flesh and blood. No reasoning from probabilities, nothing but an implicit faith and dependence on the divine power which was then upon him, could have enabled him to do it. O what an instructive lesson! When the poor instruments may feel so weak and the state of things so low, that there may not be the least probability of good arising, it is enough if they can only do the will of their great Master, and be enabled to say with the holy prophet, "I prophesied as the Lord commanded."
John Yeardley did not take his actual farewell of Barnsley until the end of the year. The reflections which he has recorded on leaving his home of so many years are very characteristic of the man: --
1818.1 mo. -- The Twelfth Month was spent at Barnsley in settling my affairs. Just before I left Bentham for that purpose, I was exceedingly unhappy at the idea of leaving my home, friends, &c. at Barnsley, and thought the parting feeling would be almost more than I could support. I was enabled to pray fervently to the Father of spirits, that he would be pleased to afford me strength to bear the change with Christian fortitude, and resign all to the disposal of his divine will; and thankful I am to relate, he so answered my request that I could leave the place to which I had been so long attached without a sigh. I have no doubt my removal, without consulting more of my friends, will appear strange to many. This I could never feel liberty to do; nor could I make any person living acquainted with my entire motive, but my precious wife. Whatever may be the opinion of others, this is a matter which rests between me and my God; and I often think it a favor that we are not accountable to man, who views too much the outside appearance, while He with whom we have to do looks at the heart.
After I had left Barnsley I went to Pontefract, to spend a few days with my friends there, where my poor lass had been for a week. I don't know that this time was unprofitably spent; but this I know -- it never requires more care and watchfulness to be preserved in a seasonable frame of spirit than when the mind is set at ease to enjoy the company of a few intimate friends. We are too apt to get our thoughts dissipated, and thus our conversation becomes less seasoned with grace than it would be if the girdle of truth were kept tightly bound.
The next entry notices a remarkable interview which, he had with a woman Friend from America: --
15th. -- This day a meeting has been held at the desire of Hannah Field from North America. I stepped down to see her at J. Stordy's; and in the few minutes we were together, before she took leave, she addressed herself to me in a very feeling manner. Although she was an entire stranger, she spoke so pointedly to my state of mind, and expressed the reward of faithfulness in such encouraging terms, that my feelings were in nowise able to resist the power which attended, but I was forced to acknowledge it as a nail fastened in a sure place.
Amongst some letters addressed by Elizabeth Yeardley to Susanna Harvey of Barnsley, is one in which mention is made of the visit of Hannah Field to Bentham; and, although the passage does not relate to the private interview described above, it is interesting as the reminiscence of a remarkable woman.
Bentham, 2 mo.2, 1818.
We have been favored lately with a visit, unexpected but highly acceptable, from that great minister, Hannah Field, from America. She very much resembles Sarah Lamley; and when she began, it seemed as if one had been informing her of the state of the meeting. Her discourse began with the parable of the Ten Virgins, which was very beautiful but awful. Addressing herself again, she was very consolatory and affecting. She is tall and inclined to embonpoint; her age fifty-three.
In the Third Month of this year, the Monthly Meeting from which he had recently removed, that of Pontefract, recorded its approval of his ministry. It is not usual for meetings to do this in the case of one who has gone to reside elsewhere. The practice at that time was, in Yorkshire at least, in issuing a certificate of removal for a Friend who had begun to exercise the ministry and was still under probation, to notice the fact of his preaching, without pronouncing a judgment upon it. But when the usual document of removal was asked for at the Monthly Meeting, on behalf of John Yeardley, the meeting paused upon the words which noticed his offerings in the ministry, and solemnly resolved then and there to give him a full certificate as a minister in unity, and to "recommend him as such to the Quarterly Meeting." It happened that men and women Friends were together, the latter remaining whilst Joseph Wood laid a concern for some religious service before the joint meeting.
John Yeardley remarks on this act of his late Monthly Meeting: --
The concurrence of my friends with my small offerings cannot but feel comfortable and encouraging to a poor timorous creature like me; but the awful consideration of ranking among the servants who speak in the Lord's name humbles me to the dust. Surely those who are designed to minister before the Lord in his holy temple ought to bear the inscription of holiness upon them. The means by which this inscription, is obtained is so painful to flesh and blood that we are always ready to shrink from the operation. When we have borne the furnace heated to a certain degree, we are ready to fancy nothing but pure gold remains; until the refining hand sees meet to administer fresh [trials], then we are ready again to cry out, If it be thy will, let this cup pass by.
In the Sixth Month he joined Joseph Wood and William Midgley of Rochdale, in visiting some neighboring meetings. Of Kendal, which was one, he says it appeared to him "as if a remarkable revival was taking place in those parts;" and he concludes his short account of the journey with an acknowledgment of the satisfaction he felt in having given up to this little service.
Joseph Wood in his diary relates the same visit more at large. We have extracted the account of that portion of it in which John Yeardley was engaged, and believe the reader will find it interesting in several respects.
1818.6 mo.10. -- Reached my beloved friend John Yeardley's house, in Bentham, about half-past eight o'clock, where we took up our quarters, and where we were favored with a renewed feeling of that love which had many times nearly united our spirits together.
On the 11th we spent this day very comfortably with these long-beloved and truly valuable friends, and in the evening Lad a public meeting appointed for Friends and people of other societies in their meeting-house in Bentham, about a mile and a half from their house. We walked thither, it being very pleasant through the fields. The meeting began at half-past six, and held two hours and a quarter. A pretty many who usually attend meetings, and a great concourse of people of other societies, attended, that the meeting-house, both above and below stairs, was well filled, and several were in the passage and in an adjoining room. A precious solemnity mercifully overshadowed us, whereby the minds of many were prepared to receive what the Lord was pleased instrumentally to communicate to the many different states; and O that they may individually profit thereby! for sure it was a time of favor unto many. I had a very long testimony to bear therein, first from Isaiah lviii.1, 2. John Yeardley held a pretty long time next, from John ii.4. I next, from 1 Cor. xiv.19.
On the 12th we set out for Wray in Lancashire, five miles, John Yeardley being our guide, taking his wife and Ann Stordy along with him in a taxed cart. We had a very pleasant ride thither, down a beautiful valley, through which the river Wenning runs; had on our right hand a line view of Hornby Castle, now in part gone to decay. Got to Wray about half-past ten, and went to the meeting, which began at eleven o'clock. Twenty-three persons attended, one of whom appeared to be of another society. I sat therein for a considerable time in a very low state, and feeling a concern to stand up, I gave up, although in great weakness: different states opened and were spoken to in the authority of the gospel; and I had a long testimony to bear from Luke xv.8. John Yeardley had a pretty long time next, from Lam. iii.26; afterwards I was concerned in prayer, and felt truly thankful for the renewed mark of divine favor, and secretly rejoiced that my lot was cast here.
On the 13th John Yeardley accompanied Joseph Wood to Kendal.
It was with difficulty, says J.W., we got into the town for the crowd of people; the Parliament being dissolved, and a new election of members about to take place; and there being an opposition in this county; Henry Brougham, the favorite candidate of the people, against the Lonsdales. They were waiting his arrival in the town to canvass for votes. After tea I went to Thomas Wilson's; his house was nearly opposite the inn where Henry Brougham put up. When he arrived the populace took his horses from the carriage, and hurried him into the town, and to the inn, four flags flying and a band of music went before him. After he alighted he went into an upper room, and addressed the largest multitude of people that I ever saw collected, from the window, for about an hour, in a very impressive manner; and so great was the crowd in the street that many fainted. All was quiet, and, after he had done, they separated in a becoming manner.
On the 14th we attended their meetings in Kendal. The forenoon meeting began at ten o'clock. It is large, and was pretty open and satisfactory. I had a long testimony to bear therein, first, from John xv.14. John Yeardley had a pretty long time next. He opened from these words: "O thou, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, manifest thyself that thou yet reignest in Israel." I next, from Proverbs ix.12.
After visiting several other meetings, Joseph Wood came to Lancaster, where he was again met by John Yeardley.
On the 21st we attended both their meetings in Lancaster. The forenoon meeting began at ten o'clock. When we got there we were agreeably surprised to find dear John Yeardley, who had walked this morning fifteen miles to meet us. The meeting was large of Friends, and it proved a time of renewed visitation unto many who were afar off, and of encouragement to those who were nigh. I had a very long testimony to bear therein, from Matt. xxii.12. John Yeardley had a short but very acceptable time next, from Esther iv.14. Afterwards I was concerned in prayer.
Elizabeth Yeardley speaks of this visit in one of her letters: --
J.Y. went to Lancaster, though the day was unfavorable. He trudged on foot to meet Joseph Wood, and got in good time for the meeting, fifteen miles distant, and returned home the same evening. J. W. was very much favored all the time he was in those parts; he really appears endowed with astonishing powers.
The same letter affords a glimpse of the social position, which John and Elizabeth Yeardley occupied at Bentham: --
We are very quiet, have kind neighbors, a very pleasant habitation, and little society, plenty of books both of the religious and amusing kind, and leisure to meditate on the one thing needful, which is to fit us for that place to which we are fast hastening: --
"For who the longest lease enjoy
(13th of Seventh Month, 1818.)
John Yeardley, no less than his wife, found in Bentham a seasonable retreat from the harassing cares of the world. A memorandum made in the autumn of this year shows that the doubts with which he was perplexed on the subject of his removal from Barnsley, were entirely dispelled, and that the change in his abode and position had been the happy means of relieving him from the load of anxiety which once seemed ready to crush him.
1819.9 mo.15. -- The tender, merciful Father who shelters our heads in battle has covered mine when many things were hot upon me. He has provided a retreat for me until the fury of the oppressor be overpast. I have often wondered at the cause which drove me from my former residence, but I now begin to see pointedly the hand of Providence bringing me to this place of quiet retreat. Should He who has brought me thus far see it to be for my good to set me on the banks of deliverance, may I have no desire to live for anything but to sing his praise!
After being recognised by the Church as a minister, he was again tried with a season of spiritual desertion; and this phase in his religious history, with his reflections upon it, and the holy resolution and hope with which he concludes, may be useful in strengthening the faith of others under similar circumstances.
10 mo.4. -- O what a stripping time have I had since I wrote last! My pen would fail to set forth the inward desertion I have experienced for months past, so that my poor mind is almost worn out with waiting and watching in the absence of the Bridegroom of souls. My enemy seems to have set up his throne in me, and leads my wandering thoughts captive at his pleasure. I have no weapons of my own to fight him with, and it seems as if Infinite Goodness had refused me the grant of that armor which I have before experienced the means of putting my adversary to flight. For what end this may be I know not, but the suffering time is hard to the natural part. If I am left to perish, O may it be in praying, trusting and believing in my Redeemer's love! and if I am not suffered to behold again the brightness of his glorious countenance here on earth, may I be favored with it shining on me in heaven!
At the commencement of this year, 1819, apprehending himself required to pay a religious visit to the families of Friends in Barnsley, he consulted Joseph Wood on the subject, who encouraged him "not to be afraid to pursue" the path which had been opened before him. In relation to this prospect of service, J.Y. has the following pertinent remarks on the ministry: --
2 mo.19. -- If I am suffered to go, may the humble spirit of Jesus go with me, and put a word in my heart that may prove as a sword in my hand, with which I may fight his battles! This is the only way in which his servants can minister so as to reach the witness in the hearts of his children. We might speak on subjects which might seem right and fit in themselves, but it is as our hearts come to be acted upon immediately by the Spirit of truth, the same principle which prepares us to utter sound words, prepares also a counterpart in the minds of others to receive them. Thus it may be said we become one in spirit and truly edified together in the love of the Gospel.
In order to perform the visit, J.Y. had, in the good order in use amongst Friends, to receive the concurrence of his Monthly Meeting.
3 mo.10. -- Was at the Monthly Meeting, where I mentioned to my friends my prospect of visiting Barnsley, and obtained their sympathetic concurrence, with a copy of a minute expressing their full unity and approbation.
My feelings on the occasion were very different from what I had anticipated. A divine solemnity appeared so to cover the minds of all present, that the enemy was trodden under foot, and not a fear was suffered to approach. What condescending goodness of a tender Father to his weak children!
Some interesting notice of this service, and of the journey which he made to perform it, is contained in his Diary.
13th. -- The evening before I set off, I was earnestly engaged in supplicating for divine protection both inward and outward; and an assurance was given me that it should be granted, and in a manner so clear as I had no right to expect. These words were as if spoken distinctly in my outward ears: "A hair of thy head shall not be hurt." In the confidence of this promise I went forth, and found it mercifully made good; for though I was overturned in the mail on the road, a hair of my head was not hurt, and not so much as a fear was suffered to come near.
On the 18th, after visiting all the families, he attended the Week-day Meeting, where he had to review his labors, and to address the assembled Friends "nearly in these words: -- In the course of my little proceedings among my friends in this place, I have sometimes been baptized for the dead, while at other times I have been made to rejoice in the resurrection of life: I hope this is a language my friends will understand." After this he preached to them on the case of Nicodemus, saying that there may be a time when our Heavenly Father, in his tender compassion for our infant state, permits us to come to Jesus by night or in secret; yet when he is pleased to say, "Arise, shine, for thy light is come, and the glory of the Lord is risen upon thee," danger will betide us if we then flinch from an open confession. Some time after he had finished, a woman Friend rose and uttered a few words. She had never before been able to overcome the force of her natural fears.
In noticing this circumstance, J.Y. says he does so because, before he went to Barnsley, he asked that if his small services were acceptable, the Most High would give him a sign, by owning his labors with his sensible approbation, and making him an instrument to help forward his work in the hearts of his children.
On another occasion, in allusion to a similar occurrence, he has the following reflections: --
"The Jews require a sign, and the Greeks seek after wisdom; but we preach Christ crucified." I am like the two former, because I dare even to ask a sign and to seek after wisdom; but to be like the latter is what I covet most sincerely -- to preach Christ crucified, not only in words, but in life and conversation. If I err in sometimes asking for a sign, I trust it will be forgiven, because it is done in the simplicity of my heart, to know my Father's will, and we have examples of this having been granted to the worthies in times of old. -- (12 mo.8.)
In the Twelfth Month of 1819, John Yeardley attended the Quarterly Meeting at York, and has some religious service on the way. His account of this little journey is preceded by some instructive reflections on his own infirmities and lack of ready obedience.
9 mo.15. -- I feel exceedingly discouraged at my own obstinacy in not keeping more humble, watchful, and attentive to the inward monitor. I am sensible loss is sustained in a religions sense by giving way too much to an airy disposition.
12 mo.12. -- When I consider the many years which have elapsed since I first enlisted under the Lord's banner, I find cause deeply to reproach myself for want of a more early and implicit obedience to the divine will; the want of which, I fully believe, has been the means of plunging me into seas of trouble and years of perplexity. I fear the time lost will never be redeemed. O, should I ever have to warn others to beware of the rock on which I have split, surely it may be done through heartfelt experience indeed! And as the glorious light of the sun begins mercifully to verge from under the cloud, O, may I never, never forget the sacred covenant made in the days of my deep distress, that if the Lord would loosen my bonds, then would I serve him freely.
25th. -- I went to Thornton to R.W.'s, and next day to Lothersdale Meeting, accompanied by D.W. and some other part of R.W.'s family. The forepart of that meeting was very trying, at which I did not wonder, if we might judge from a previous feeling; for ever since the prospect of this little visit presented to my view, I felt a load on my spirit which I could not by any means cast off. On entering the place, I thought, when our dear Lord sent forth his disciples, he commanded them to take neither purse nor scrip; and that if this state of poverty of spirit was any badge of discipleship, some of us might claim to wear it. The language of the weeping prophet came also before me -- "O that my head were waters, and mine eyes a fountain of tears, that I might weep day and night for the slain of the daughter of my people." It was hard work for me, a poor stripling, to have to intimate such close things; but the conclusion was easier to the natural part, I having to address a few to whom the language seemed to go forth, of "Mary, the Master is come, and calleth for thee."
I went from thence to the Quarterly Meeting at York, which was thinly attended. The meeting for worship seemed a cloudy season; however a little matter impressed my mind which I was thankful in being enabled to get rid of, though hard to flesh and blood, it being the first time my voice has been heard in this Quarterly Meeting in ministry. The meeting for business was long and tedious, being protracted four and a half days by an appeal. It was disagreeable in its nature, but was conducted in a way to afford information and instruction to the minute observer of men, manners and things.
1820. -- Our first extract from this year's diary contains a short but beautiful reflection: --
2 mo.18. -- I am convinced it would be better for us to live more in the inward spirit of prayer; we should live in nearer union with the Father of love; receive more of his heavenly embraces; the heart would be prepared to know more of his holy will, and receive power to perform it.
When John Yeardley left Barnsley he commenced a correspondence with his brother Thomas, which lasted until the death of the latter, J.Y.'s letters have been preserved, and supply us with much that is valuable in his character and Christian experience. The following extract shows the power of sympathy which he possessed towards those with whom he was entirely intimate: --
4 mo.24, 1820.
Thy affectionate letter I received with pleasure, though some parts of its contents penetrated the deepest recesses of my heart, and excited in me every tender sympathetic feeling of a brother and a friend.
I rejoice that thou hast found freedom to speak so candidly the undisguised language of thy heart; to me it seems like a voice from the dead, because I conceive it to be the voice of that awakened principle in thee which, as in many others, may have been held too long in captivity through the predominance of the surfeiting cares of the world. Whenever thou inclinest to unbosom to me thou mayest do it with freedom and in confidence, for, be assured, if thy complaints cannot meet with relief, they will at least meet with a welcome reception and a heartfelt condolence; for I could have no claim to the least of the Christian virtues, if I were destitute of a feeling regard for the sufferings of a friend, and especially a brother.
A few months afterwards he was again called upon deeply to sympathise with his brother. The occasion this time was the perplexity in matters of business in which Thomas Yeardley was involved. He expressed his feelings in a letter in which he not only gives the soundest Christian counsel, but also shows how he was himself indebted to the same maxims for the preservation of his honor and of his spiritual life and usefulness. The firm and practical manner in which the subject is treated render his remarks of permanent value.
Bentham, 8 mo.7, 1820,
MY DEAR BROTHER,
Thy affectionate letter of the 24th I have received, and need not tell thee how sensibly I am concerned for thy present situation.
I do hope thou wilt not lose sight of the object thou hast now in view, to get relieved in some way from the excessive load of business which presses upon thee, for we can none of us carry fire in our bosoms too long without being burnt. We shall not be justified in the sight of Him with whom we have to do, if we do not endeavor to place ourselves in such a situation as will best answer the end for which he has designed us. It would convict us of a very weak and erroneous idea of a Supreme Being, to suppose that he could not or would not prosper our endeavors with equal success in a more restricted way of trade, when our motives are purely to serve him faithfully. Surely, He who cares for the sparrows will not suffer us to fall to the ground without his notice.
Thou wilt be ready to say it is an easy matter to speak of these things on paper; but believe me, my dear brother, I know a little of what I say. There was a time when I was as extensively engaged in business, according to my means, as you are now. I have had large sums of acceptances to provide for, with nothing towards them but what was in the uncertainty of the drapers' hands. When I have set out on a journey I have had to take the distressing fear along with me, that if I failed of getting in almost every shilling that was due to me, I failed in paying my acceptances. Add to this, the painful prospect of losing my property until I could not pay my just debts, and then mention a situation which would place an honest mind in a greater degree of perplexity. O! had it not been for the preserving hand of my gracious Redeemer, I had never lifted up my head above the waters which were ready to overwhelm me. In the midst of all this I received a firm conviction, that if I wound up as speedily as circumstances would admit, I should measurably be safe; but if I suffered the impression to pass away disregarded, I might be hurled along with the stream and never more be able to recover myself. It seemed as if my eye was fixed on a star which shone quite on the other side of the [waters]; and I was thus enabled to wade through, without, knowing what course to take when I got to the other side. I do not mention this as being in the whole applicable to thy case; but as a fellow Christian traveller towards the celestial city, I earnestly intreat thee, in the love of the gospel, never to consider thyself on a level, or at liberty to act in full scope, with the man of business, who thinks himself created to pursue the things of time without being responsible to his Creator for endeavoring to reach a situation in life which would enable him to prepare for eternity. Thou wilt not be long at a loss what to do if thou dost not overlook the secret motive in thy own breast. Do not grieve at losing a little of what thou hast; it will come again, if for the best, and may bring the double reward of peace. If thou attendest to that directing Hand which has hitherto preserved thee as a monument of thy Heavenly Father's mercy, thy victory is already sure, though thou mayst not know it. It is not for the test, consequently not permitted, that we should always see our way. Were this the case there would be no exercise of faith. The servant of the prophet was blind as to the power which preserved them, when he saw a host of the enemy encamped against them: he cried out, "Alas, my master, how shall we do!" But his master answered, "Fear not; for they that be with us are more than they that be with them;" and the prophet prayed that the young man might be made to see. And when his eyes were opened, what did he see? Why, he saw the mountain full of horses and chariots of fire round about them. The Lord's chosen people are continually encircled with these chariots of fire, otherwise it would not be possible to be so mercifully preserved from harm. Should it be insinuated to thee that thou art not of this chosen race, let me tell thee, we become children of the Most High as soon as he has raised in us a desire to serve him, and we become willing to abide under his protecting wing whatever changes may take place in our own feelings during the operation of his holy hand upon us.
Nothing is more important in the life of a Christian than the manner in which he turns to account the opportunities for serving his Lord which continually spring up before him.
6 mo.23. -- Going last evening to Wenington, to repeat my French lesson, my friends there asked me to call with them on a sick person; feeling quite free to do so, I went with them. On sitting quietly by the bedside, a little matter came before me, which was communicated from these words: "Affliction cometh not forth of the dust."
On my return home, I could not but reflect on the necessity of having our bow strung, and being always alive to the interest of souls, and endeavoring to imitate the example of our great Master, whose whole life was employed in continually going up and down doing good.