John Yeardley had scarcely returned to England before war was declared with Russia. The confirmation he received from this lamentable event, that his journey had been made at the opportune time, filled his heart with gratitude. The work he had been able to do had been small, but he had the satisfaction of knowing that it had been accomplished at the only juncture in which it would have been practicable.
The year 1853, he writes, closed with many mercies to a poor unworthy servant. I consider it a great blessing to have accomplished the visit through Russia and to Constantinople before the horrible war broke out. What a frightful state are things in at the present moment! -- no access could be had to those countries.
In the Spring of 1854 he spent some time at Bath. He attended, whilst there, a public meeting appointed by Sarah Squire, in which he had a testimony to offer in the gospel. Hearing afterwards that a military man who was present had been brought to conviction by the doctrine which had been declared, J.Y. noted in his Diary the subject on which he had preached.
4 mo.2. -- I recollect, he says, alluding to the awful state of the times in which we live, and the need of a refuge in God, and the blessedness of the consolations of the Holy Spirit in a time of trouble. That the Spirit of God was the first agent in the work of man's salvation, bringing to the Saviour who died for sinners: the Father drawing to the Son, the Son perfecting the work, and presenting each member of the living church without spot or wrinkle to the Father. Blessed unity of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit! The Father creating, the Son redeeming, the Holy Spirit sanctifying.
In making a brief note of the Yearly Meeting this year, John Yeardley takes occasion to record his sentiments on a subject which then, as now, strongly engaged the attention of the Society.
The Yearly Meeting has been a precious time; it has strengthened the bond of love and unity. There is, under all discouragements, a love to the Society manifested in the young people of both sexes. It is true there is a great want of bearing of the cross, and many are seeking for excuses to persuade themselves that many of those things that have long distinguished our Society are now no longer of use. But I still think there is more religion in many of our young members than their outward appearance would authorize us to believe. I love to cleave to the good, and to hold out a helping hand to encourage the tender budding of grace, and for the good to overcome the evil. I want them to be brought to conviction, and to be told that they are not required to wear plain clothes, and to use plain speech, because our Friends have done so, but because Christianity leads into simplicity, and the language of Scripture is that of truthfulness, and to follow the changing fashions of the world is too low for the notice of the Christian whose heart is placed on heavenly things, and whose time is too precious to be spent on trifles. There is no peace to the regenerated heart equal to a devotedness of life in promoting the extension of the Saviour's kingdom upon earth.
He soon after alludes to the Memoir of Joseph John Gurney, then just published, and to the sharp stimulus which he received from its perusal -- a stimulus which minds fixed upon improvement always receive from the vivid representation of time and talents diligently employed.
6 mo.16. -- Many of my solitary moments are cheered, and I am greatly edified, in reading J.J. Gurney's Memoirs. It is a real privilege to be introduced into the daily walk of the life of a Christian man with such an enlightened and enlarged mind, whose expansive heart is filled with love for the whole human race. Strengthened by faith, and filled with the unction of the Spirit, his life was devoted to doing good to the family of man, laboring for the conversion of sinners, and comforting believers.
The diligence of J.J. Gurney in study, &c., has stimulated me to renew the reading of the Greek New Testament, but I sink into the dust when I see what he accomplished in comparison of my own insignificance. It is, however, a comfort to know that I have a merciful Lord, who will not require of me the exercise of gifts that I have not received. O that I may he more faithful in the employment of the capacity which has been entrusted to me, for the good of souls and the honor of my Lord!
The reflections which follow add another to the numberless testimonies of the saints' experience, that the Christian life is a continual warfare.
I am sensible of having lost ground for some time past for want of more diligence in watchfulness and prayer. I have been deeply sorry for it, and I do hope my compassionate Lord has forgiven me. As a proof of his forgiveness, I am permitted to enjoy once more the smiles of his countenance, which cheer my lonely walk. How greatly do I long for more intimate communion with the Beloved of my soul, the precious Saviour! Lord preserve me in every moment of temptation, and make me more entirely thine! Grant me more confidence in the immediate action of thy Spirit in the ministry of the word, that my communications of this nature may be deep and clear, and under the unction of thy Holy Spirit. Amen!
6 mo.23. -- This morning I have been favored, more than usual, in my endeavor to pour out my soul before God in prayer, in desiring more purity of heart, more faith; and that it might please my compassionate Lord to sustain and console me in my solitary lot, and preserve me faithful to the end of the race. Many relatives and near friends were brought to my remembrance, whom I endeavored to present to the mercy of a merciful God.
In the same diary is an appropriate notice of Dr. Steinkopf, and a tender tribute to the memory of Martha Yeardley.
The other evening was spent at J. and M.C.S.'s with Dr. Steinkopf. "The hoary head" of this aged and experienced Christian is as "a crown of glory," for "it is found in the way of righteousness." He is full of love, speaking constantly out of a grateful heart of the mercies of his God. Before parting he read a few verses, exhorted us and supplicated for us.
A little more than three years have fled away since my precious and dearly-beloved M.Y. entered on a blissful eternity. How do I feel the loss of her sweet, cheerful, and edifying society! Ever since her blessed spirit fled from earth to heaven, she has never by night or day been long absent from my thoughts. How often does my soul pant and pray for a preparation of heart for that blissful state where she now is, near to her precious Saviour, who redeemed her with his own blood. He enabled her to serve him when on earth, and now she sings his praises in heaven. What a charm did she impart to my daily life! Our pursuits were always one and the same; and now what a desert I still have before me, -- but it may be very short.
In the Eighth Month, John Yeardley went to Minden on a visit to Ernst Peitsmeyer, whose daughter Sophie had been for some time his kind and cheerful companion, and who now, with her parents and other friends, welcomed him again to Germany. Whilst at Minden he derived benefit from the sulphur baths of the Klause, not far from the town.
The bath, he says, is one hour's gentle exercise on the saddle. The farm where the spring is stands quite alone in the midst of a wood, and the way to it is delightful, -- much suited to my taste. Sophie rides sometimes with me: it cheers me to have her trotting by my side.
The handful of inquiring persons at Obernkirchen, whom J.Y. visited on his return from Norway, continued to claim his sympathy, and one First-day he joined them at their usual place of worship.
It was, he writes, a refreshing time in this little meeting. When the little company first met together they were dragged into the street by the police; but they persevered, and, on making an appeal to the magistrate at Rinteln, stated their case with so much simplicity that the government has granted them liberty to meet together undisturbed. How marvellous, the Friends are protected; and the Baptists, under the same government, are persecuted with increasing rigor! No interference on their behalf has been of the least use. -- (Dairy and Letter.)
In the Fourth Month of 1855 John Yeardley received a certificate "to visit his friends in Yorkshire, and to hold meetings with persons not in church-fellowship" with Friends.
I arrived at Halifax, he says, in a letter of the 28th of the Fourth Month, on Fifth-day evening, and attended the Monthly Meeting of Brighouse on the 20th. It looked formidable to me in prospect on the first entering into harness; but I hope the meeting proved a good introduction, and I saw a good specimen of a large, harmonious, and well-conducted Monthly Meeting. There might be near 250 members present.
When he had completed the service, he took a week of repose at Harrowgate, where he briefly reviews his journey.
5 mo.29. -- In passing along through my native county, I found many countenances missing which were very familiar to me years ago, and who are now gone to their rest. But I was comforted to find in many places a race of young people springing up who bore the marks of being plants of my Heavenly Father's right-hand planting, and who gave hopes of becoming useful in his Church. It is with a grateful heart that I record the mercy of my Lord, in that he has granted me strength in a remarkable manner to do what he put in my heart to do, from place to place. Blessed be his name!
After having finished the service in Yorkshire, I have had a week's tarriance at Harrowgate. The rest and quiet have proved beneficial to my health, and very precious have been the seasons of sweet communion I have been permitted to hold with my God in this retirement.
This summer he repeated his visit to Minden, and hired a lodging at the Klause. A reflection in one of the letters which he wrote from this retreat affords a pleasing glimpse of his mind: --
I sometimes think that a large portion of comfort and joy are allowed to those who really love the Lord; and how chastened are the pleasures of the humble Christian! They abide with us long after the causes of them are passed away; and the more our permitted pleasures are enjoyed under a grateful sense of the goodness of the bountiful Giver, the longer they may be permitted to us.
In the Ninth Month, he attended the Two-months' Meeting at Pyrmont. It was not without emotion that he visited once more the place which had been so familiar to him in earlier days. The hopes he had then conceived, and which, as we have seen, he had so fondly cherished, with regard to the Society of Friends in that part, had been disappointed; the little company had dwindled in numbers and declined in religious influence; and when he took leave of Pyrmont for the last time, it was with a sorrowful heart.
From Minden, accompanied by Sophie Peitsmeyer, he went southwards, and took up his abode at the little town of Neuveville, on the Lake of Bienne, in Switzerland.
I spent, he says, two or three days at Neufchatel, and visited many of my old friends in the place and neighborhood; but it was affecting to find how many of those I had known years ago were no longer on this earth. Madame Petavel was as warm-hearted as ever; the professor, her husband, is ripening for heaven.
John Yeardley had gone to Neuveville with the intention of passing the winter in Switzerland. After remaining a month, however, he returned to England; and this change of mind was the result of a remarkable circumstance. He became silent and reserved, with the air and manners of one who is not at peace with himself; until one night, when he was heard to cry out in a loud tone, as though speaking to some one. The next morning at breakfast he appeared subdued and full of tenderness; and on his young friend inquiring what had made him cry out in the night, he told her that he must return home, for there was more work for him to do. He said that a prospect of service in the gospel had latterly opened before him, and that as he had greatly desired to remain in Switzerland, he had striven against the sense of duty and refused to yield; but that during the night he had had a vision, in which he heard the command repeated to return home and enter again upon his labor, and that he felt, as he thought, the touch of the heavenly messenger's hand. This caused him to call out; and when he awoke, he found that willingness of spirit had taken the place of his former obstinacy. Thus turned from his own purpose, he set about to accomplish the will of his gracious Master with his usual resolution, and they made the best of their way back to England. The nature of the service which he saw before him is touched upon in the following passage from a letter, dated Neuveville, the 14th of the Tenth Month.
My home duties press heavily upon me.... Very long have I thought about the young men, and the younger part of our Society; and I have a hope the way will be made for my finding access to them, in a religious and social point of view. Should it be permitted, the Lord grant that it may tend to mutual comfort.
John Yeardley returned through Paris. He spent a day or two in that great city, which he never saw "so quiet and free from soldiers." We extract from his Diary a short note of a conversation which took place at the table d'hote of the hotel where he lodged, and which appears to us to be of an instructive character.
Two men contended respecting the motive by which mankind are influenced to good actions. One attributed it to reason; the other held that it was virtue which restrains from evil and impels to good, and maintained that we must do good actions from the love of justice and virtue, and not from the fear of punishment or the hope of reward. The latter had the advantage over his antagonist in the argument: --
I had not, says J.Y., taken part in the conversation; but at the close I felt constrained to tell the Christian that I confessed myself on his side, because he had defended the truth; only that what he called virtue, I called the action of the spirit of God in the heart of man. With much animation, he clasped my hand in his, and cried, "That is the very thing, -- that is just what I mean!"
In the year 1856, he engaged in two religious visits at home, both of them in accordance with the kind of service which had been unfolded to him in the retirement of Neuveville, viz., mingled religious and social intercourse with his younger fellow-members.
In reading the expression of his feelings in the prospect of the former of these engagements, it is instructive to remark, that the same sense of entire dependence which had bowed his spirit when required in early life to make the first offering of this kind, was present with him when now called upon to go forth in his Master's name for the twentieth time, and when age and experience had given him reverence among men.
1 mo.8. -- To-morrow is our Monthly Meeting, when I expect to propose to my Friends a visit to the meetings composing the Quarterly Meetings of Bristol and Somerset, and Gloucester and Wilts. Every time any fresh exercise turns up for me, it always feels as if it was the first time of entering into the holy harness. If my friends permit me to proceed, I hope I shall be helped through it; but it looks formidable.
21st. -- Bristol is like a great mountain looking me in the face, and weighing heavily upon my heart.
The following short memoranda of the way in which he was engaged at Bristol are taken from his letters; the Diary, during his later years, supplies few notes, either of his labors or his experience: --
3 mo. -- I met at Richard Fry's house a large number of young men and women teachers of the First-day School; forty-eight were present. An opportunity was offered for my receiving and also communicating information respecting schools and education. What makes the subject more interesting in Bristol, is the attendance of more than one hundred of the school children at meeting on First-day mornings, which, I think, has been the practice for about ten years, and their behavior is orderly and good.
31st. -- I am somewhat busily employed in this busy city in visiting the young men. I find very ready access to them, and my engagement has the hearty concurrence of all my friends. I am abundantly convinced that it would have been a great mistake to have ran away from the place without making the attempt at the performance of the present service. The usual meetings for worship have been seasons of divine favor, some of them, I think, extraordinarily so, which I consider a great mercy in my Heavenly Father, when I consider the weakness of the poor instrument. It has been announced for me to give a lecture this evening in the large meeting-house, on my travels in Europe, a sound which almost frightens me. Friends really do not know what a poor thing I am.
By the kindness of a friend, we have been supplied with a pleasing personal reminiscence of John Yeardley's visit to Bristol, which will help to represent him as he was in later years.
Bristol, 6 mo.8, 1859.
Since thou informed me of thy intention to compile a memoir of our late dear friend John Yeardley, I have endeavored to recall the circumstances of his visit to this city in the spring of the year 1856.
My impression is, that the most striking feature in his character was his childlike simplicity, both in word and conduct. This very characteristic, whilst it really increased his influence for good, especially with the young, rendered it perhaps more difficult to trace, and now to describe, the precise manner in which it was exercised. I believe that his Christian labors here were very seasonable and very important, and that he was enabled to perform a service which scarcely any one else would have been equally qualified to render.
There was in him, so far as my observation went, no approach towards an assumption of spiritual dignity; nor was there, on the other hand, that which is perhaps a more frequent defect, anything of feigned humility. His whole character seemed to me perfectly unaffected. To whatever extent, therefore, his natural disposition may have fitted him for profitable intercourse with the young, I think that the qualities which I have attempted to describe rendered him peculiarly acceptable to them. Many times, whilst he was amongst us, he alluded -- I believe even in his public ministry -- to his delight in their society, somewhat in this manner: "I love the company of those who tread the earth with an elastic step." This prominent trait in his character was a striking illustration of what may be termed the corrective tendency of true religion, by which in advanced life he was enabled to place himself, under the precious influence of the love of Christ, in thorough sympathy with those whose circumstances, in many respects, were so different from, his own.
But my object was to describe John Yeardley's meetings in Bristol. The truth is, however, that in describing the man, one seems most truly to describe his service. In addition to his family visits, he met a large company of our members in our meeting-house, and gave an interesting narrative of his journeys in Southern Russia and Greece. He afterwards invited many of our young friends, especially those who were engaged as teachers in our First-day Schools, to spend an evening with him. Meeting at the house of a kind friend, we had an opportunity of hearing from his own lips some interesting details of his labors, chiefly, I think, in reference to the schools in Greece. With characteristic simplicity, he made various inquiries respecting our own First-day Schools, in which he felt a deep interest. The occasion was of a very sociable and easy character, and well calculated to promote in his young friends the healthy tone of religious feeling which seemed so peculiarly to belong to himself.
After Martha Yeardley's decease, and as years rolled on, his mind dwelt still more habitually and more confidingly than ever on the approaching end of the race.
4 mo. 24. -- I cannot say my spirits are always high. There is an individuality in the allotment of each of us which we must seek for grace and aid to endure to the end. The road may be now and then a little rough, but it cannot be very long, at least to some of us; and when the eye closes under the last gleam of earthly light, and then opens in the full brightness of eternal glory, to enjoy the fulness of a Saviour's love, it will be bliss indeed.
Thinking his state of health unequal to the attendance of the Yearly Meeting, he left London and again, resorted for a while to the baths near Minden, where he passed two months in tranquil retirement. He had in former visits been deeply interested in the sufferings of a Prussian soldier who refused conscientiously to bear arms. The late Samuel Gurney wrote to the King of Prussia, on behalf of the young man, who was in consequence liberated from military service, but was sentenced to two years' imprisonment. The term was not nearly expired; but John Yeardley, whilst at Minden, heard that he had been released from prison by immediate command of the King. J.Y. had "spent a First-day with him within the gloomy walls in Duisburg," and was consequently the more ready to rejoice in his liberation.
On his return to England, John Yeardley proceeded to Birmingham. His service in this and the neighboring towns was similar to that which he had had to perform at Bristol. He says:
By day I called on the sick and such as were confined at home. In the evenings I met companies of young men and women. They were invited to the Friends' houses where tea was first served, and then a religious occasion of silence and exhortation, with supplication when felt to be under right pointing. The remainder of the evening was spent in social converse. I am very favorable to the mixing of social intercourse with gospel labor. All seemed pleased, and I trust we were mutually edified. I was often requested to give some account of my late journey and the state of religion in the various countries where I had travelled; and the conversation often, turned on points connected with our religious principles.
Joseph Sturge, he continues, was from home. At the request of his wife I dined at their house with twenty-five young culprits, whom J.S. has in his Reformatory at Stoke, near Bromsgrove. They came in a van with horses to spend the day. They are all such as have been once or twice in prison, mostly for theft. I addressed them after dinner, and at tea-time I questioned them as to Jesus Christ our Redeemer, on God, Heaven and Hell, how to gain Heaven and avoid misery. I left them with a more favorable impression than I otherwise should have had. Severe measures had failed to improve them, but they seemed susceptible of kind treatment, and some of them gave hopes of amendment.
9 mo.21. -- Visited the Boys' and Girls' First-day Schools. Breakfasted with thirty teachers (young men) at the schools. About 370 boys present in two rooms. None are taken under fourteen years of age. Also a large class of adults. I addressed the two companies: then went to the girls; heard them read, and addressed them. There are about twenty young women teachers, and perhaps 270 to 300 girls.
The morning meeting was large. I was much pressed in spirit to speak on the nature of the fall of man, and on the necessity of having clear views of gospel truth. I was told afterwards that there was a Unitarian present.
He attended the Quarterly Meeting at Leicester on the 24th, and the two following days met companies of young persons, who were, he says, "much tendered in spirit." After some similar service at Stourbridge and Coventry, he returned on the 27th to Stamford Hill. He remarks in his Diary: "I believe the service of the young Friends in the First-day Schools has been a blessing to themselves as well as to their pupils."
The next month John Yeardley made a religious visit to Hertfordshire, and had two social-religious meetings with the younger Friends at Hitchin; after which he remained at home until the beginning of the Twelfth Month, when he left England for Nismes.
One object in this journey was to revisit the school which had been established by himself and Martha Yeardley in 1842: another was the renewal of his declining health. Susan Howland and Lydia Congdon, from the United States, who were then on a visit to Europe, were bound for the same destination, and John Yeardley gave them his company.
12 mo.6. -- On entering France, he says, we found a sprinkling of snow and frost, but on leaving Lyons we left all the wintry weather behind, and travelled on under a hot sun, and bright, cloudless sky, which seemed to impart to us all fresh vigor and spirits. S. Howland remarked, In such an atmosphere she felt another being.
At Nismes, the party found Eliza P. Gurney, and Robert and Christine Alsop, on their way home from the valleys of Piedmont. John Yeardley lodged at the school, spent much of his time with the children, and with the other English and the American Friends gave his aid in some plans for their recreation.
12 mo.25. -- The evening of this day was a lively and pleasant scene. The girls' countenances were brightened and their hearts cheered by the presents made to them by the English Friends present. The "tree" was new to them; it was beautifully lighted with tapers, and bore a variety of fruit both for mind and body.
1857.3 mo.2. -- My dear friend -- -- - proposed my giving the school girls a treat before I left Nismes. We contrived a visit to the sea, distant from Nismes about twenty miles. We procured two omnibuses with six horses, and started at 5 o'clock in the morning. Long before the time appointed, the little maidens were in the entrance-hall with their satchels in their hand, containing each her dinner; twenty-seven in all. The pleasure on the road was novel and great; but when they arrived at the sea-shore their delight was complete; with light hearts and quick heels, running and picking up shells, meeting the waves as they advanced and receded. On our return we visited the ancient town of Aigues-Mortes, near the sea, famous for having been the place where the Protestant women were confined and punished even to death. We entered most of the strong and gloomy cells, and saw the instrument of torture. The tower and fortress are a perfect model of a feudal castle.
On his return to England, John Yeardley was taken ill with bronchitis, which produced great bodily weakness, and caused him "many wearisome" nights and days; but, he says, "my Saviour was near to console and sustain me." He went for change to Bath, and afterwards to Brighton with Margaret Pope: --
We made, he says, speaking of this visit many calls, and my hospitable hostess had many of the Friends to tea and dinner visits. Our social readings in the evening were often instructive in the conversation upon what we read, particularly over Hippolytus, who lived and wrote in the first half of the second century. The Chevalier Bunsen did good service to the Christian Church in bringing the life and some of the writings of this good man to light.
On his return home we find him still solicitous, as he had been in former years, for the intellectual improvement of his young friends.
11 mo. -- During my stay at home I have renewed my German class for a few of my young friends. We have also commenced a soiree for German and French conversation. I love the society of my young friends, and am always, anxious to promote their learning to speak German and French.
The Diary for 1858, the last year of his life, commences with, a New Year's dedication of himself afresh to the service of his faithful Creator, and a prayer for a fresh anointing in the exercise of his ministry.
1858.1 mo.4. -- How many and various are the thoughts which crowd on the mind on the commencement of a new year; perhaps none more important than to think I am one year nearer to eternity. A desire does live in my heart (cherish it, O, my God) to live more to thy glory on earth. How I long to be favored with strength to do something for the cause of truth and righteousness, so long as I may be permitted to remain on the Lord's earth. I think with gratitude that he has blessed me with a little more faith of late in my ministry, and my very soul prays that in these requirings he may be pleased to put the unction of his Spirit into my heart, and his words into my mouth, and that under a right pointing, they may go forth with power. Grant me, Lord, more devotedness of life, and a right and sure preparation for a peaceful death and a blissful eternity.
For some years before his decease, John Yeardley's thoughts were frequently occupied with the subject of the Millennium. Like some other good men, he thought he saw in the events which were taking place, the impending accomplishment of those predictions, whose fulfilment was to precede the "great and terrible day of the Lord." On one occasion, after mentioning a number of these "signs of the times," he winds up the enumeration and the thoughts to which it gave rise, with the following reflection: --
Happy is the Christian who, in this time of conflict, can look beyond the passing events of time to the Great First Cause, and behold, as with the eye of faith, the providence of his God watching over all things, waiting to bring good out of evil, and causing all things to work to the one great point, when he will cause the wrath of man to praise him, and the remainder of wrath will he restrain. "Come, my people, enter thou into thy chambers and shut thy doors about thee; hide thyself, as it were for a little moment, until the indignation be overpast. For behold the Lord cometh out of his place to punish the inhabitants of the earth for their iniquity." (Isaiah xxvi.20, 21)
In the Second Month he spent a week at Chelmsford with Susanna Corder. His visit was prefaced by the following letter: --
Stamford Hill, 1 mo.13, 1858.
MY DEAR FRIEND,
It would seem to me as if there were only left here and there a link of the chain of my original connexion on this earth. The best end of this chain is attached to those loved ones in heaven who are drawing me every day nearer to their happy and blissful abode, through the love of our glorified Redeemer. It is now many years since thou received her once so dear to me as a bosom friend, to partake of thy wise counsels, and in her troubles especially to enjoy the sympathy of thy warm and affectionate heart.
I am now left alone for a short time; my young companion is at Norwich. If thou wert at home, pretty well in health, and withal not so much occupied as sometimes, it would be a great pleasure and gratification to me to pay thee a short visit; but, as an absolute condition, I must request thee to say, in perfect freedom, if it would be quite convenient. I want to ask thee many, many things.
Thy friend, affectionately and very sincerely,
After his return home, having also visited Saffron Walden, he writes: --
1 mo.25. -- Just returned from a visit to Essex. I lodged a week at my dear friend S.C.'s, and was edified and comforted in her company. It has been a promised pleasure of some years' standing. The morning meeting on First-day, as well as the one on Fourth-day, was a season of spiritual refreshment, for which I was truly thankful. The Friends testified their unity and comfort: I called on most of them.
On the Seventh-day, C.M. conveyed me across the country to Saffron Walden. On the way we paid a sweet visit to the afflicted family of -- -- . At Walden I was affectionately cared for, and was much interested in the Friends there, whom I had not seen for eighteen years.