Volume Second 1853
Extracts from Diary, and Letters continued
Transcribed by Martha Giffen
Go to: 1852.
From my shorthand notes kept at the time, it appears, that as week after week passed away, and the time drew nearer that I must decide relative to removing west, my hesitation continued, and my anxiety increased to know what was best to do in the present imergency. My brother-in-law was anxious that I should take my old home property off his hands, which proposition did not suit me except I could obtain more land adjoining. I therefore pro-
posed that if my Father-in-law would trade me fifty-four acres of land adjoining, for my Iowa possessions, I would agree to the proposition made by his son, to take my home place back again. Sometime during the First month of this year, my Father-in-law consented to make the trade, and we accordingly had writings drawn, and all matters arranged for our permanent settlement at the same old “Jolly-run” residence. When taken into consideration that the amount of land in Iowa which I traded was over five hundred acres, it has the appearance of a great sacrifice on my part, but owing to my not feeling satisfied in my own mind to remove there, I was brought to a willingness to make a sacrifice, for the sake of again becoming settled down in the quiet, which seemed right for me to do, as appears by the following which was written at the time. “My Iowa land is now all disposed of and I have no prospect at present of ever making a home there. I doubt not but by removing, and occupying the land, the foundation was laid for a much greater source of wealth than my means can reach here - but pecuniary gain has not been the principal consideration with me in the matter, but to do what appeared to be right - and so far I feel peace and quietness in so doing, and an inward satisfaction in believing that I have perhaps done the best for us all.”
O! the watchful care of a merciful Creator over the workmanship of his hands I am surely unworthy of the many favours and blessings which He has bestowed upon me. I well remember my settled, peaceful feelings at that time. The speculative spirit and anxious reaching after a more rapid increase of this worlds goods appeared for the time to be brought down, and a willingness wrought to make pecuniary sacrifice for the sake of an entrance into that calm enclosure in spirit which the world with all its show and speculative buoyancy knows not of. While I kept here, and looked not out beyond this enclosure I felt satisfaction, and contentment with my limited possessions and I verily believe I felt and knew this to be my place of safety - but O the weakness of the poor creature, and how liable to be led astray in the hour of temptation. My brother, James, and other relatives in Iowa who were anxious for our removal there, on becoming apprised of my transaction, very naturally disapproved of it - and immediately wrote to myself, and others, expressing astonishment at my weakness in making such great pecuniary sacrifice rather than leave my “old homely home and
its unimportant surroundings.” That the property which I had parted with was rapidly enhancing in value and would soon have made me wealthy without further labour or effort, whereas, the situation in which my late transaction had placed me I would have no resource, or means of accumulation except through hard labor as heretofore. This I well understood to be in a measure true when only pecuniarily considered, but as this was not then my chief besetment, I for a time maintained the calmness with which I was favoured and experienced a good degree of preservation from the temptation to look beyond my quiet abode, but as time rolled on, and accounts continued to arrive of an extensive emigration to Iowa and a rapid rise of land in value, I began to falter, and at times regret that I had so soon parted with my possessions there, and upon this a desire began to arise to replace my apprehended loss by employing an agent to enter another quarter of land for me, which was finally accomplished notwithstanding my serious doubts at times of its being the best. Having given way thus for to the same speculative spirit which had formerly disquieted me, and which I had been favoured partially to escape from, my desire then increased to an anxiety to own still another
quarter, which while under consideration, and near to its consummation I wrote as follows under date of sixth month 19th. “Yesterday completed the thirty-eighth year of my age, and instead of being a faithful servant of the Lord in accordance with my covenant with Him two years ago, I feel further from the fold of rest than at any former time in my life. On sixth day morning last I wrote to father Thompson in Iowa to make inquiry for a quarter of land that could be purchased reasonably in the vicinity of that which I traded to him, as I had thoughts of employing him to make a purchase for me if a suitable opportunity offered, which, on feeling further after the propriety of the matter I do not feel satisfied with.
The prospect of a profit in the advancement of the price of land there is great, and very tempting, and in the general outward view and judgment propels me to strive for the benefit of it - while at the same time my inward convictions are such that the thoughts of engaging in it siezes my heart with a secret horror that I can hardly abide. I am therefore very doubtful of its approval in the divine sight - although my friends, and common reasoning mood may query - why? While employed at my daily labour
yesterday, the language continually, and very forcibly rested on my mind - “they that will be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and hurtful lusts which drown men in distruction and perdition.” If such feelings as these continue I do not know but I shall have to write again (in the cross) and inform him of my dissent from further proceedings.
O! I fully believe that my merciful Creator was following me closely at this time for my own, and my family’s good; and had I have obeyed His voice which was again, and again distinctly heard in my soul, and looked not out, nor consulted with flesh and blood, much exposure, and conflict of mind might have been avoided in after years. But there was not a full surrender known to this merciful inspeaking word in the heart. The whole armour was not put on, nor the wiles of the enemy effectually withstood, and therefore a desire lived to participate with others in the profit of the enhancement in value of western land. At times I would look outward at the example of many of my fellow professors in this respect - those whom I valued as superior to myself in religious experience, and would almost conclude that my inward scruples were imaginary, and query with myself “why not I have
the benefit of this opportunity to accumulate as well as others? In this reasoning state of mind I consulted my dear companion in regard to it on the 21st, but without informing her relative to my scruples on the subject Had I have divulged the whole matter as it stood with me in a spiritual sense, I cannot believe that she would have encouraged me in the transaction as she did, and as very slight causes are sufficient to turn a current in the direction of the source of attraction, so but little was required in the channel of my choice to turn the scale in favour of the purchase, and I accordingly wrote additional directions to that effect the same day and forwarded the funds soon after.
Thus the love of “filthy lucre,” “the root of all evil” gained the ascendancy over me, and propelled me to act in the direction of my own will and wishes, and not in accordance with what I at times felt to be the will of my Heavenly Father, on which account remorse, and unsettlement followed me, and my former peaceful feelings fled away. I notice the attendance of our Monthly Meeting on that day as being awfully distressing during my silent meditations therein - also similar notices under various dates subsequent to this time bears evidence of an unhappy, unsettled state
of mind, even to an occasional expression of regret that I had resumed possession of my old home residence, and had declined removing west. O the many conflicts of mind, and sore bereavements. Yea! the incalculable amount of spiritual devastation, and barrenness that may follow as the result of but one act of disobedience. I surely suffered loss thereby besides passing through much that might have been avoided had obedience have kept pace with knowledge. Yet through all - unworthy as I was, and amidst the trials and changes which the rolling years brought forth, the Lord in his tender mercy and regard, and boundless compassion, did not utterly forsake me, but condescended, to visit, and revisit me with His “day-spring from on high, warning me against evil, and of the necessity of repentance, and enabling me at times to pray for help, and strive for deliverance from the bonds that bound me - as my memorandums made at divers times, and under various circumstances testify.
My feelings are thus further discribed under date of Ninth Month 23rd “I have been labouring under much discouragement and unsettlement of mind for several weeks - perhaps I might say for months past. My business does not appear to progress smoothly and prosperously. Things seem to go wrong more frequently
than usual, and I have less patience and fortitude of mind to bear it. I often experience a feeling that takes but little pleasure in anything - but little inward strength present to stimulate me to do right - because of my continual conviction of being so far wrong - and at times I almost lose hope of ever experiencing a better condition The attendance of our late Yearly Meeting proved additionally discouraging, also A protracted discussion on account of a few friends from the “smaller body” in New England being in attendance detained the transaction of the regular business for four days in succession, and a separation apparently came near being consummated by those who opposed proceedings with the business in their presence. My previous hope that the cause of the controversy would ultimately be removed, and a separation avoided is now almost abandoned, and my anticipation of a result so disastrous to the best wellfare of our Society is an additional source of despondency and anxiety.”
Near this time our school, and Teacher is thus alluded to. “Our Friend Lydia Ellis closed her last school here shortly previous to Yearly Meeting, and has now returned to her fathers in order to prepare
for removing to Indiana Talitha and myself attended Flushing Meeting a week or two since, after which we paid them the last visit we expect to have the privelege of doing soon, if ever again. We feel warmly attached to Lydia, she having been an acceptable member of our family, and an exemplary Teacher in our school for near three years. I also remember her dear Mother and her tender counsel to me in years gone by with much regard and confidence, she being a Minister in good esteem amongst her friends. In her removal from works to rewards, both her family, and Society, lost a faithful Friend, and testimony beares against all wrong things.” But notwithstanding I was thus reminded of the good things which I had mercifully received through that faithful servant in times past, and was in a good degree interested in our visit with her family, yet feelings of barrenness, and lack of substance was present with me as the fruits of my disobedience in not bearing the cross more faithfully against the world and the things thereof. The bitterness of death which lies hidden in the forbidden path which leads beyond the enclosure of the good Masters fold continued to follow me, causing me to go heavily on my way, as is thus further expressed under date of 11th Mo 5th
“I am still labouring under a feeling of hopelessness and discouragement, and time goes heavily, and drearily on. An awful impression frequently rests with me that I am almost, or quite forsaken by the good Spirit, and left to myself to be tossed to and fro by every wind and wave that comes. My temporal business is felt to be burdensome rather than pleasant, and my temper irritable and impatient, giving evidence of a state of mind but poorly fortified against reverses and disappointments. When, or how I shall escape from this destitute condition I know not - but I fully believe that nothing short of a returning to the Comforter of souls, and an entire willingness to be obedient thereto will ever effect it. But how this is to be arrived at I am unable to see, for of myself I can scarcely look heavenward, and Spiritual strength appears to be withdrawn - but I must cease for the present and go to meeting - a place where of late I have known but little satisfaction.”
On the 7th I speak of feeling as though my cup of misery might be nearly filled to the brim - and on the 16th of feeling myself a poor weak creature inferiour in a spiritual sense to almost any other - no good within to comfort me - nothing permanent to lean upon. (written on ¼ inch of cut-off page in the center margin - These leaves were spoiled by accident and cut out before written upon)
Again, on the 17th of 12th Month I write - “I am favoured with more hopefulness than I have experienced for some time past, but yet I feel poor and miserable, and destitute of that consolation which renders this life happy, and inspires a hope of eternal happiness in the life which is to come. It is this life, and substance which reaches beyond the grave that I desire to experience, but the way by the cross which alone leads thereto I shrink from as too hard for flesh and blood to endure, and thus lose ground, and mourn over the bitter fruits of my disobedience, and grieve that “God and mammon cannot be served. Sincere desires alone to become a servant of the Lord will not obtain his love and approbation, but a willing obedience must keep pace with knowledge in all things whatsoever is divinely required. ‘Not every one that saith Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of Heaven, but he that doeth in the will of my Father which is in Heaven.’ By a neglect of faithfulness to the Lord in that which he required of me, I have lost my strength, and ability to draw near unto him as I once could, and to pray for
help I cannot, while I feel myself at so great a distance from him. It is awfully true that His wrath is kindled against me and His frowns are justly resting upon me, for the sin of my broken covenants, and long delay to deny myself and yield obedience to His Holy will! I hope not, yet know it is my due, and just recompense of reward.”
The 18th being First day, I attended meeting as usual, and spent the afternoon at home in reading in the Bible, and Friends Library, in regard to which I say, “While reading the lives, and religious experiences of some faithful Friends in former times, and seeing how near and dear they felt the cause of Truth to be to them, even to extreme sufferings, and death, I have felt renewed desires after good, and more encouragement to strive to do right than for several months past; and a query has arisen with me, why should I render myself of all men the most miserable by neglecting to do that which I know to be required of me? and which I am well aware is the only means by which I can reasonably entertain a hope of eternal life. Oh! miserable and undone is that
man who has no hope - nothing on which he can rely in the trying hour of death. Oh! awful consideration! The hight of captivity, and the depth of dispair. Sick of visible things, and without hope in Christ. O may I not through long continued disobedience to the merciful visitations of a gracious Saviour, ultimately arrive at such an hour as this.
At our monthly meeting on the 20th I was greatly surprised, and humiliated on account of my name being brought forward, and accepted, as one of the Overseers of our meeting, in reference to which I thus record my feelings. “There has hardly been a time in my life that I have felt so destitute of the necessary qualification for filling so responsible a station as the present. I feel myself incapable of governing my own family rightly, or even my own heart, much less that of assuming the care and oversight of the church. I receive it as an additional evidence of the extreme weakness and degeneracy of our once favoured Society, for surely discerning minds could easily comprehend my unfitness to fill a place so important to the best wellfare of the flock. How is it possible for any one to oversee others for good untill they first
yield obedience to the gift of good within themselves? Our discipline requires a manifestation of the spirit of meekness and love in the treatment of all cases of deviation therefrom, but how can such a spirit be exercised where it does not exist? An Overseer of the flock should be a resident of the fold of Christ, and there - within that sacred enclosure, watch over the lambs of the fold, that they be not led astray, nor induced to break bounds. What then will become of the flock which are entrusted to the care of those who themselves dwell without the gates. An Overseer should be a meek and humble Christian - one who is capable of saying in his own experience, “Come - let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob - and He will teach us of his ways, and we will walk in his paths” - but O! how far short of this do I feel myself to be. My name may be recorded as an Overseer on the Monthly Meetings Minutes - but that will not constitute me truly a spiritual caretaker unless the Lord is with me and prepares me for the work. “Except the Lord build the house they labour in vain that build it Except the Lord keep the city, the watchmen walketh but in vain.”
The following lines were written on the night of the 31st.
Another year has gone to return no more to us.
One year less to live to all the living,
And which to many has proved the last.
The closing year - the end of all things here below
No more to live as mortals do, but with spirits, good or bad
Prepared, or unprepared, they had to go; and
Hope of future years, for things post-poned,
Midst busy scenes gone by, are now post-poned forever
Shall we who live to see the year of fifty-four, act so too?
Why not take warning by the past, and tremble at the fate
Of fellow mortals, and what ours might have been?
Why longer procrastinate, lest the present be our closing year?
And find us unprepared to render up our deeds
To Him whose right it is to judge, and find ourselves
Too light to merit praise of well-done good and
Faithful one, enter in where joys forever be thy own.
This is all we need in life on earth (save food and raiment)
Or life to come, when time to us is done.
Then, why need we strive - and strive again,
For worldly things, which cannot serve us long,
Which soon will be to us no more than dust.
The cold remains from sting of death.
And yet those things remain, to tempt the rising offspring
To follow on in paths that Sires have trod.
They too must die, and leave to those to come,
And thus the world betrays mankind. Each grasps
His treasure close, and calls it “mine,” but passes on, and leaves
His idol to rob the soul of his successor as it did his own.
Thus, whatever else beside, the “Kingdom” should
“First be sought, and the righteousness thereof,”
“That all things needful may be added thereunto.”
Go to: 1854.