In 1822 John Yeardley went to reside in Germany. As his residence abroad constituted one of the most remarkable turns in his life, and exercised a powerful influence on the rest of his career, we shall develop as fully as we are able the motives by which he was induced to leave his native country. By means of his Diary we can trace the early appearance and growth, if not the origin, of the strong Christian sympathy he ever afterwards manifested with seeking souls in the nations on the continent of Europe, and especially amongst the German people.
The first hint concerning his desire to go abroad is contained in the account of a dream, under date of the 2nd of the Ninth Month, 1818, regarding which he felt much disappointed, because he could not recollect the names of the places in Germany about which he had in his dream been interested. The next year (the 19th of the Fifth Month) he had a second dream on the same subject, in which he supposed his friend Joseph Wood was about to go on a religious mission to the Continent, and he brought out his Atlas to find the places for him. On being asked if he meant to accompany him, he said he |was not prepared to answer at present.| In the relation of a third dream, which he had the next year (the 25th of the Eighth Month, 1820), the locality to which his mind was attracted is first indicated. |Pyrmont and Minden,| he says, |rested very closely with me, and to them I felt bound.|
It might not have been worth while to have made allusion to these dreams, which ought perhaps to be rather as the continuation or echo of his thoughts than as their original source, but for the deep importance which John Yeardley himself attached to them. He considered that by them was first made known to him the divine will respecting his future course; and that his longing desire to recover the name of the forgotten locality of the first dream was answered in the last. It can admit of little doubt that the same conviction of their more than common significance, which led him to cherish as sacred the remembrance of these night-visions, helped to form and sustain his resolution in carrying out the project with which he connected them.
Just before the occurrence of the last dream, his faith in the heavenly source of the invitation which, whether waking or sleeping, he had received, to go over and help his Christian brethren on the Continent, was confirmed by a prophetic message from John Kirkham, who, in the course of his religious travels, again visited Yorkshire.
8 mo. -- Our dear friend, John Kirkham, from Earl's Colne, Essex, slept at our house on Second-day, the 7th, and had a meeting with our few on Third-day. How wonderfully was he enlarged; and I could not but admire how he was favored to speak to the states of some present. I could set my seal to every word he uttered, and say, This is the very truth. Before he left us he had a select opportunity in our family, and said a great deal stout being faithful to our own vision. He seemed to answer a question in my mind as fully as I had any right to expect; for I had almost asked it as a sign that if I were not deceived in my vision he should be led to speak on the subject. He said emphatically, |We cannot be faithful to the vision of another man, we do not know it except it be revealed to us; but we must be FAITHFUL TO OUR OWN VISION.|
On the 9th I accompanied him to the Monthly Meeting at Settle, and I once more desired that, if my feeling in former times had not deceived me, this servant of the Lord might be led to speak on the same subject; and indeed he scarcely said anything else but what had the strongest bearing on my request. What encouraging favors do I receive at the hands of so good a Master!
A few months later we find the charge to foreign labor renewed, with intimation of the wide field in which he would have to work; an intimation which was amply verified in his future travels.
11 mo.26. -- At meeting something involuntarily entered my mind like this, I will make thee a preacher of righteousness to many nations. I felt not only a desire to be made willing to be sent, but also a desire to be prepared.
A few days after noting this impression he thus communes with himself on this topic, which now began to absorb the greater portion of his thoughts.
12 mo.3, First-day. -- As I walked alone to the meeting this morning, I thought within myself, What can be the cause that I so often feel drawn in spirit towards the land of -- -- ? My thoughts have now for a long time past so frequently and so involuntarily revolved on the subject that I begin to be very jealous over them, and to query whether it is the workings of self-imaginations. If this is the case, O that I may be relieved from them. But however unaccountable my feelings may be, a secret love towards some unknown souls in -- -- is so strong at times, that if I had wings I should for my own inward peace visit them in body as I now do in spirit. It seems as if my spiritual eye saw in those parts what we may call a seed (the seed of the kingdom sown in the heart) that wants to take root downwards and spring upwards, but which is almost choked with the tares of superstition. Are there not scattered up and down in -- -- , many whose souls are verging from under the clouds of thick darkness, and from under the bonds of idolatrous superstition, towards that glorious liberty which is brought to light by the gospel? Something in me secretly craves an opportunity to tell those precious creatures that the time appears near at hand when this glorious gospel light will shine so clearly that they will discover a Saviour in the secret of their own hearts; and it is to him (I could tell them) that they must look for the perfection of their salvation. Should there be anything of the right savor in my heart concerning this matter, I humbly hope that in due time it will be brought to maturity, and my way made plain and easy -- plain, so that I cannot possibly mistake the pointing hand of divine wisdom, and easy, so that when I hear the command I may be enabled to obey.
A very instructive time at meeting. The subject abovementioned glanced in my view, and with it the Dover-failing objection, If I am at all |apt to teach,| can it or will it be required of me to leave those here and others in this land who have need of instruction? This objection was immediately answered in a way which I never before experienced. They have, besides many teachers, the unerring light of Jesus in their own hearts unto which they know they ought alone to look for direction. And if they neglect or overlook the means in themselves, it is not in my power, a poor instrument, to do them any good. So it may be said of others to whom I may apprehend myself called. It all revolves on this single and important point, -- What is the divine will concerning me? If I can only know this and am enabled to do it, all will be well.
In the Autumn he attended Liverpool Quarterly Meeting, an occasion which was one of the most memorable seasons of his life. His narrative of it is very characteristic: --
9 mo.19. -- My dear wife and I left home to attend Liverpool Quarterly Meeting. Through mercy we arrived safe there, but I, as usual when from home, felt very low and poor in spirit, and was ready to call in question my coming to the place. For although I received, as I thought, a proper signal before I left home, yet one or two circumstances occurred to discourage me from going, which I pressed through with some firmness; however, such was my uneasiness the first night in Liverpool, that I was very desirous, if my being there was in right wisdom, something might turn up to convince me that I had not done wrong in leaving home. And blessed be the name of Jesus, I had not been long in the first meeting (their Monthly Meeting the day before the Quarterly,) before I was perfectly satisfied. There were present Willett Hicks and Huldah Sears from America, and Mary Watson from Ireland. In the early part of the meeting my mind was engaged in meditating on -- |God will enlarge Japhet and dwell in the tents of Shem,| and so it proved. The silence was broken by W. Hicks with these words: |Great men are not always wise, neither do the ancients understand wisdom.| Others present were much favored, and the meeting ended in heavenly harmony.
After it was over I found to my surprise and joy, my brother and sister from Barnsley, whom I had expected to come to Bentham to accompany us to Liverpool, and their not coming to Bentham first was one of the causes which had discouraged me in leaving home; for I once had concluded, in my wavering, to leave my going for their determination, thinking if they came it would be the means of getting me off, if not, I should give it up; but it so fell out that they took the nearest way to meet us there, without writing us word, and it would have been a great disappointment had I not been there. I should not have written so much about a seeming trifle but to show the necessity of firmness in doing what is pointed out, unless some reasonable cause prevents.
Now to the opening of the Quarterly Meeting for worship, which was like the day of Pentecost, when the place was filled with a rushing mighty wind from heaven. The first stream of ministry flowed again through W.H., who appeared from these words: |In the last day, that great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried, saying, If any man thirst, let him come unto me and drink.| It was indeed applicable; for all seemed athirst, and were invited and admitted to drink of the waters of life freely; those who were afar off drew nigh, and those who were near were enabled to acknowledge the might of Him who had called them to his footstool, and crowned them with his presence. Huldah Sears and Mary Watson were also much favored in testimony. What opened on my mind to express was this: |God speaketh once, yea, twice; yet man perceiveth it not.| I thought we were bound to acknowledge that our God still reigned in Israel, and was condescending to speak to his people. Immediately afterwards M.R. appeared a long time in supplication, and then H.S. both very powerfully; so that goodness seemed to rise higher and higher, until we swam in divine life. This blessed, heavenly meeting will be remembered by some to the latest period of time.
After this event John Yeardley speaks of being favored with more enlargement of love towards the members of his small meeting; and also of having, when attending a public meeting at Wray with Joseph Wood, to kneel down in prayer for the congregation.
10 mo.20. -- To my humbling admiration, he writes, I had in the conclusion to kneel down and call on the name of the holy and high God of the whole earth, that he would be pleased to continue the blessing which he had already condescended to pour down on our heads. This is a most awful act of worship: I trust the intimation to it was attended with proper weightiness of spirit.
This meeting was a remarkable season, and is thus described in Joseph Wood's journal: --
Bentham, 10 mo.20. -- We [J.W. and James Harrison] set out for Wray, our beloved friend John Yeardley being our guide. We called by the way at Thomas Barrow's, of Wenington Hall, and drank tea; then proceeded to Wray. There were but few Friends here, but they have a very large ancient meeting-house, and my concern being principally towards the inhabitants, and proper information thereof being given, abundance attended; the meeting-house both above and below stairs was pretty well filled; and their behavior was deserving of commendation. The Lord's presence eminently crowned the assembly, and the truths of the gospel were largely and livingly declared amongst them, and it was a time of extraordinary favor to many. I had first a long testimony to bear therein, from Luke iv.41. A pretty long time of silence then ensued, and great was the solemnity which appeared to cover the assembly. After which John Yeardley stood up and said, Some were ready to say there was no worship without words, but from the precious solemnity which he believed had covered many minds since the former communication, he was ready to conclude many were feelingly convinced to the contrary. He was then pretty largely led forth in opening the advantage of silently waiting upon God. I a pretty long time next, from Isaiah liv.11,13. James Harrison next, from Matt. xiii.44. John Yeardley was next concerned in prayer. The meeting held about two hours and a half.
21st. -- About the middle of the day my companion (J.H.) called upon me, and betwixt twelve and one o'clock we left here for Lancaster, Thomas Barrow being our guide, and his wife, Charlotte Russell, and Emma Hodgson, accompanying us. Emma Hodgson is the daughter of a clergyman of Rochdale: she had been some time on a visit at Thomas Barrow's and went with the family to the meeting at Bentham when we were there, and was much reached and tendered therein; and attending the meeting at Wray last evening she declared after her return that she was fully convinced of the truth.
Returning to John Yeardley's diary for this year, we find some passages from which profitable instruction may be gathered.
11 mo. 8 was the Monthly Meeting at Settle; my dear love and I both attended. To me it was a poor low season; if there were any good, I was too much like the heath in the desert, -- I knew not when it came. In addition to this, it felt as if I had to mourn over the barren state of some others. O, how I dread the state of a lukewarm Quaker! May I ever be preserved from this sorrowful state of a lukewarm Quaker! I believe it is often the means of bringing a damp over our solemn assemblies.
12 mo. 7. -- Query. What is the most likely means for me to adopt to approach nearer to holiness? Answer. To spend more time in retirement silently to wait upon God. The more conversant I am with him, the more I shall know of his will and receive power to do the same. To do the will of the Almighty is the way to perfect holiness. The nearer acquaintance we cultivate with him, the stronger will become the ties of his affection. The more devoted we are to him, the more confidence will he repose in us.
Catching then a glimpse of the glorious calling of the Gospel minister, he breaks forth in the following strain: --
If I am ambitious in anything on earth, it is to be eminently useful in His cause. I can say with the wise man, I ask neither riches nor honor, except the honor which cometh from doing the will of God; but I do ask for |an understanding heart.| I trust I can say in the deepest sincerity that I could renounce, if they were in my power, the riches and honor of ten thousand earthly worlds in purchase of a double portion of that holy unction which rested on Elisha's spirit. These are bold sayings, but my Saviour tells me that as there is no limitation to his goodness to grant, so there is no limitation in asking of him for the gift of his Holy Spirit. But then what manner of man ought this to be on whom shall be conferred such great honor! Surely it must be left to Himself to prepare the vessel before he pours in the oil.
We have already made an extract from the diary of the 3rd of the Twelfth Month in connection with John Yeardley's call to visit Germany. The same diary supplies us with the description of a spiritual opening for the benefit of others with which he was favored in the same meeting.
In my minute for First-day last I mentioned its being an instructive meeting to me. Towards the conclusion a simile of this kind arose and spread before my view: As wax when melted by the fire or the candle is then only capable of receiving the impression of the stamp put upon it, so also are our minds only capable of receiving impressions of divine good when our spirits are melted and contrited before the Lord. As these seasons are not at our command, it appeared to me to be of the highest importance for us to endeavor to preserve and improve them as the best means of testifying our gratitude to the great Donor. The impression which the above contemplation made on my spirit proved like a morsel of bread to my soul, which I found I could not conceal, though I struggled hard to eat it alone, it seeming so insignificant to hand to others; but at length I gave up, and felt it to be a time wherein some among the few present were melted as wax before the fire, and had a portion of divine goodness afresh imprinted on their minds; and my spirit craved that they might not prove as |the morning cloud and as the early dew that goeth away.|
On the 7th of the Twelfth Month Elizabeth Yeardley was suddenly prostrated by an alarming attack of illness, from which, however, she soon rallied, though she never entirely regained her previous state of health. Possibly her husband alludes to this afflictive occurrence in the following memorandum: --
12 mo.10. -- How varied is our passing along in this vale of tears! First-day last was a day of brightness, and this day has been one of comparative death and darkness. I have been made to know something of the saying recorded by the prophet, -- |Who is among you that feareth the Lord,| &c., |that walketh in darkness and hath no light.| This has appeared to be my portion this day, and I find it hard work to |trust in the name of the Lord and stay upon my God.|
Some further remarks in his diary for this day turn upon the subject of the ministry, and the passage he quotes shows how deep and heart-searching is the work of preparation for an enlarged and effectual gospel ministry, whatever be the denomination among men to which the preacher belongs: --
In the course of reading the life of Mary Fletcher I find much deep instruction and encouragement. Many of her remarks have proved like a goad to spur me on in the way of holiness. An extract made by her from Dr. Doddridge's life aptly speaks the language of my heart, when in my silent breathing to the Almighty I am led to crave an enlargement of my gift in spiritual things: --
|There must be an enlargement of soul before any remarkable success on others; and a great diligence in prayer and strict watchfulness over my own soul previous to any remarkable and habitual enlargement in my ministry; and deep humiliation must precede both.|
1821. -- The first entry in the diary of this year turns upon the ever-present subject of his going abroad, and is penned under feelings of the deepest solemnity. It is followed the next day by another on the great duty of self-examination.
1 mo.2. This day I have felt singularly impressed with a desire to be more devoted to my Maker. I believe it is his will that I should be more given up to serve him; and if spared with life and strength, my few remaining days must be spent in his cause. A presentiment of this kind has for some time past prevailed with me; and from the calm, awful, and weighty manner in which it is at times brought over my spirit, I am induced to think it cannot be the mere phantom of the imagination. The prospect of a temporary residence on the -- -- seems rather to increase than otherwise. How it may terminate, or the time when to move, is yet uncertain to me. O, how the prospect humbles me! I trust I can, in some degree say, with the good old patriarch, that his God shall be my God, and if He will only give me bread to eat and raiment to put on, I desire to serve him.
1 mo.3. -- This day I am thirty-five years old. Whether I may be spared as many more, or whether I may only survive as many months, weeks, days or hours, as I have now lived years, is altogether in the breast of Him who has hitherto preserved me as a monument of his mercy. How awful the consideration! To think that we may be called to give an account at any hour of the day, and not frequently to examine the state of affairs between us and our God, is complete infatuation. Strange as it may seem, as it regards myself I stand condemned. I am sensible sufficient attention is not paid to the important work of self-examination. O that this fresh year may produce fresh vigilance!
In the Second Month, Ann Jones, accompanied by her husband and Isabel Richardson, visited Bentham on a religious mission. Ann Jones had much service, both in public and private. What she had to declare to John Yeardley in particular was very remarkable, and reminded him of the discourse of Sarah Lamley in 1814. He says; --
She said a good deal which so struck home to my feelings, that I have not been so deeply reached in the same manner since dear Sarah Lamley visited families at Barnsley. (Letter to his brother.)
In the Third Month he found it to be his duty to attend some meetings of Friends in going and returning from the Quarterly Meeting at Leeds. In his diary of the 14th of the Third Month he speaks of making the necessary application to the Monthly Meeting for its sanction, and, in that and some succeeding entries, records his feelings on the occasion, and the help which he received by the way.
This was new work to me; how I was humbled before I could be made willing to mention my concern to my friends! which was done in such a faltering manner that I believe many sympathized with me. When I had received the meeting's approbation, I was thoughtful how I should get most conveniently on my way. After our meeting I received a letter from dear S.S., saying that he had felt a prayer raised in his heart, that I might be helped in my undertaking by Him from whom best help comes, and that he was most easy to propose accompanying me on my way in his gig. A very agreeable companion he proved to be, and for this little act of dedication he shall not lose his reward.
I left home on First day, the 25th, for Newton, over the Fells. There fell much rain the day before, which swelled the waters so that my wife and I became very thoughtful how I should get over the river to Newton, over which there is no bridge. I thought that should I be favored to get over safe and dry I would take it as a sign for good in the journey; and so it was in mercy granted; for when I came to the water-side, I met a man on horseback who let me ride his horse over. This was in a wild part of the country, with not a house near. Simple as this may appear to some, I could not but acknowledge in it a providence for which I was thankful.
At Newton, where I expected to meet only three or four, more assembled than the larger end of the house would hold. I was met by dear D.W. from Stockton; I could not but think we looked like two poor striplings before a great army. I should have sunk under my fears, had I not been enabled to get down to that Power which can bear up above the fear of man.
In the afternoon I went to Thornton, and sat down with the family. This was a precious season, and it felt doubly so from our having been on the barren mountains, both literally and spiritually.
I went next morning, accompanied by D.W., to Lothersdale. This was also a good meeting: I had reason to believe the God whom I was endeavoring to serve had answered my prayer in sending his angel before to prepare the way; I seemed almost borne off my feet by the power of Divine love.
We dined at S.S.'s; and after dinner I could not quit the room without expressing what I felt towards him, which melted us all into tears. S.S. joined me, and we went to Skipton to be at the meeting at five o'clock. Before we came there I felt such a sense of poverty that it seemed as if my spiritual life was going to be taken from me; and even when I got to meeting, the same feeling remained, which introduced my spirit into a state of suffering not easily to be conceived. On our sitting down I felt there was something on the mind of S.S., and I feared lest, by suffering the reasoner to prevail, he should be unfaithful; but he expressed a few words which seemed as the key to the treasury.
I went that evening to Addingham, and had a meeting next morning, where I sensibly found a little strength: we seemed to sit under our own vine and fig-tree, where none could make us afraid. We lodged and dined at our kind friend J. Smith's, in whose family I had something given to me to minister.
From Addingham they went to the Quarterly Meeting at Leeds, where John Yeardley received intelligence of the sudden decease of his beloved friend Joseph Wood. J.W. had been engaged in testimony and supplication in the meeting at Highflatts on First-day morning, and was taken unwell during the evening, and died in a few hours. After the Quarterly Meeting John Yeardley went to attend the interment, and on his way had a meeting with the Friends at Barnsley.
It was, he says, a favored time, and we were humbled and instructed together. We went to Highflatts to tea; when I got to the place where the remains of my dear friend were laid, I stood silently by the coffin in tears, saying in spirit, If it be thy mantle I am designed to wear, may I receive it with humility, reverence and fear! This feeling awfully impressed my mind, because my dear friend had said more than once to me, If I have any place in the body, I bequeath it to thee. The meeting was very large and was a precious season; the occasion on which we were met seemed to give wings to our spirits to fly upwards.
This spring Elizabeth Yeardley's disorder began to assume a serious form. A short memorandum from her hand discloses in a touching manner her state, both physical and spiritual.
3 mo.29. -- |Regard not distant events: this uneasiness about the future is in opposition to the grace received.| This sentence from my old favorite, Fenelon, was much blest to my spirit this evening, when I had foolishly been thinking about future sufferings. O, sufficient for the day is the evil thereof. Perhaps a few rolling suns may, through the merits and mercies of my Lord, see this poor worm translated to his Paradise.
The first direct allusion to anxiety on her account which appears in her husband's diary bears date the 5th of the Fifth Month. Her debilitated state seems to have been the cause of their deferring to a future day their contemplated removal to Germany, which was otherwise to have taken place about this time.
In the summer of this year he was himself laid for some weeks upon a bed of sickness, with a complaint of the stomach. He viewed this time of suffering as profitable in assisting his resolution to undertake the religious mission to which his mind was still continually directed. In a letter to Thomas Yeardley, of the 1st of the Ninth Month, he says, |Such is my stubborn will that I am not to be effectually pleaded with, until I am brought down into the valley of Jehoshaphat, or judgment.| His wife, who was too ill to leave her chamber, has a memorandum respecting her husband's illness, under date of the 29th of the Eighth Month. It seems to have been the last which her pen ever traced.
Since I wrote, my dear husband has had an awful attack; but the Lord has again been merciful in restoring him to ease once more. Yesterday (may the Lord enable us to keep covenant) we laid our Isaac on the altar. O, to be wholly our kind, our Heavenly Master's, who cares to provide for us, for soul and body; who takes nothing from us but what he knows would harm us, and gives us a hundred-fold of that which is good in lieu.
Prior to this time John Yeardley had not confided to his brother the thought which so long had occupied his mind. In the letter just referred to he speaks of it as |an important concern which had long been the companion of his secret thoughts by day and his visions by night,| and says: --
It now seems to be approaching so near a state of maturity that I feel freedom to communicate it to thee.
For about three years past I have had an increasing apprehension that it would be required of me to take up a temporary residence among those who profess with Friends on the other side of the water, particularly with the few in the neighborhood of Minden and Pyrmont, and probably at some time with those in the South of France. But my visit is likely to be paid in a way different from any that have been made before. I have never seen that the nature of my concern would require any document from the Quarterly or Yearly Meetings; neither do I think it would answer my present views; because the secret language of my heart has been for many months past, |Go dwell among them, go dwell with them.|
I should be in want of some employment, and the first thing that presents to my view is to offer my services to a few of my friends in the yarn and flax trade; articles which are largely imported into Yorkshire, and which seem to be the natural production of the country, within the circle where I should be likely to reside.
His brother's answer to this letter was most consoling and encouraging: in reference to it he says, it seemed with him as it was with Peter in the prison, when the angel smote him and the irons fell off.
And O, he adds, that I may be willing, now that a little light begins to shine, to gird myself, bind on my sandals, cast my garment about me, and follow my Lord, thinking no hardship too much to endure for so good a Master. (Diary, 9 mo.21.)
Although in reality not far from her end, his wife's state had not as yet excited immediate alarm. On the 23rd of the Ninth Month J.Y. writes: --
My precious E.Y. is yet so weak that there is a probability of its being an obstacle in the way of our removal; but there is this consolation, -- if the work be of the Lord he will not frustrate his own design; if it be not his doing we must submit to have the whole overturned.
In a few days he became aware of her critical state.
9 mo.29. -- The indisposition of my dear wife has taken such an alarming turn that I yesterday began to have serious apprehensions as to the issue. I have watched with her night and day, and my prayers have been unceasing for her restoration, I trust not without a due reverence to the divine will. But I did not feel as though nature could give her up until yesterday, when as I stood retired by the bed-side of my dear lamb, endeavoring to feel after resignation, I gave her up as fully as human nature, through divine aid, was capable of. Then it sprang in my heart, Where is the man that can offer up an Isaac? He shall go for me, and I will send him. There seems a spark of hope that even now, when the knife is lifted up, the voice may yet be heard, -- |Lay not thy hand upon the lad, for now I know that thou fearest me.|
My precious dear has been to me in my late exercise a never-failing instrument of strength, comfort, and encouragement: in general her faith has been much stronger than my own. Should it please Heaven to restore her, O that there may be an increased desire that it may be for no other cause, but that her heart, her hands and her feet, may unite with mine in sounding forth our Redeemer's praise, if required, even to the ends of the earth.
The following entries record the last hours of the dying Christian wife, and the feelings of her bereaved husband: --
10 mo.25. -- Last night we expected my dear lamb would have sunk away. How the awful event is to terminate is known only to Him on whose bosom I trust she has always rested; for in no other place could she be preserved in the state of peace which she appears to possess.
29th. -- A most awful morning; my dear lamb is no more! She sweetly fell asleep in the bosom of her Saviour, at one o'clock this morning. The closing scene was perfect ease and peace. From the first of her illness she seemed aware how it would terminate, and was perfectly resigned. During our being at Bentham she has often said it was a place provided by Providence to afford her that religious retirement she had long desired, and which she took the most scrupulous care to improve. When in health she would tell me of late that perhaps she might be taken away in order to set me more fully at liberty to do the Lord's work.
11 mo.18. -- This day two weeks was the solemn ceremony of committing to the silent dust the remains of my very precious and dearly beloved Elizabeth. I had dreaded the day very much; but through prayer, mixed with a degree of faith, which was mercifully granted, I was wonderfully supported. In the meeting I felt the divine influence so near, and so to prevail over my spirit, that I was constrained publicly to thank the Father of mercies for his goodness.
This day I visited, perhaps for the last time, the place which encloses the cold relics of one so dearly beloved; and as I stood weeping over the grave, it sprang in my heart, She is not here but (she) is risen. What an unspeakable consolation to be enabled to leave the dust behind, and hold sweet communion and converse with the spirit. Ever since her departure it feels as though her spirit had never left me, but was hovering and fluttering around me to administer comfort on every afflicting occasion; and O, saith my spirit, that this precious feeling may remain with me for ever.
12 mo.20. -- I feel to lament the loss of my dear lamb more than ever, at least so far as I dare. No one but myself knows the comfort which the late awful event has deprived me of; but I no sooner remember the hand which administered it than all complaining is hushed into silence, and I am made to rejoice that she is so safely deposited where trouble cannot reach.
From this moment John Yeardley felt himself quite free to pursue the path of duty which had been opened before him, viz., to go and reside in Germany.
In the Eleventh Month he left Bentham to sojourn awhile with his brother, and on the 9th of the First Month, 1822, he received a certificate of removal from Settle Monthly Meeting, addressed to the Friends of Pyrmont and Minden, which certified that he was a member of the Society of Friends, and a minister well approved by the church.
Before we pursue further the sequence of events, two passages from the diary may be here transcribed, which could not have been inserted in the order of time without interrupting the narrative. The first of these conveys a lesson of practical wisdom, and exhibits the method by which the writer was able to succeed and to excel in what he undertook. It is the true comprehension and resolute acting upon maxims such as these, which makes so much of the difference between one man and another.
1821.7 mo.2. -- No man can excel in everything; therefore it is highly important for each mind to consider attentively for what it is calculated, and what end it is designed to answer by him who created it. As secular affairs are often more expedited by a judicious arrangement, than by hard doing indiscriminately at the mass; so will undertakings of superior importance be more advantageously attained by keeping a single eye, and looking for best direction to make a proper selection of what ought to be done and what ought not to be done. I was long too much wavering on this head, to my great loss; but I now hope it is become a settled point, find I have clearly seen for what service I am designed in the church militant here on earth; therefore, through the assistance of divine grace, I hope to pursue nothing but in subordination to this main design. For a little mind to aim at great things would be to thwart the whole; but to endeavor to be faithful in small things, seems to be the way to attain the end.
From the other entry we shall extract only a few words, but they are words fraught with deep instruction: --
9 mo.7. -- |Without holiness no man shall see the Lord.| Without purity of heart we cannot see the pointing of the Divine Finger.
On the 18th of the Second Month, John Yeardley attended Pontefract Monthly Meeting, held at Wakefield.
It was, he says, a precious season; I felt my friends very near to me in spirit, and expressed to them in tenderness and love what lay on my mind; and in the conclusion the power and goodness of the Most High were so awfully felt that I could not forbear kneeling down to offer him thanks, and to supplicate that he would he pleased once more to bind up the breaches in the walls of our Zion, and grant that when we were separated one from another we might never he separated from his presence.
I now begin, he continues, to feel very anxious to set forward for my destination on the other side of the water. What an awful situation mine appears to be! O that faith and patience may be granted equal to the occasion!
1822.2 mo.26. -- I never read in my dear lamb's diary but it feels to season my heart with good. It is as though her writings were impregnated with a degree of sincerity and resignation which, were so eminently the characteristics of her innocent spirit. O, I repeat it, that my precious Saviour may be pleased to appoint her angel spirit to be my guardian through life, until I shall be joined with her in heaven and we both unite in singing his praise.
About this time his brother, Thomas Yeardley, began to exercise the ministerial office.
3 mo.3. -- Attended Woodhouse Meeting, which was to me a very trying one. My brother Thomas spoke the feeling of my heart in something like these words: -- |They come unto thee as the people cometh, and they sit before thee as my people, and they hear thy words, but they will not do them.|
3 mo. 18. -- This day was held the Monthly Meeting at Barnsley. The Testimony concerning our much-esteemed friend Joseph Wood was read and signed by the meetings at large. When I consider the legacy, so to speak, which this dear friend used to say he should bequeath to me, this language seems to prevail in my heart: -- |Moses my servant is dead; now therefore arise. As I was with Moses, so I will he with thee; I will not fail thee, nor forsake thee.| -- Joshua i.2, 5. This is an awful consideration; but why should any despair? May not the faithful mind say, |This God is our God; he will be our guide, even unto death.| I desire most sincerely to be kept in humility, whatever the probations may be which are necessary to fit me for the design of Him who hath given me life, breath and being.
On the 2d of the Fourth Month he quitted Barnsley, accompanied by his brother Thomas.
I think it a favor indeed, he says, to be relieved from a doubting mind as to whether I should go or stay; for I can truly say that, let the result prove what it may. I go with an undivided heart.
Elizabeth Dell had a meeting at Pontefract this day, where I met her; it was a very satisfactory meeting, and it was pleasant to meet with several Friends here whom I did not expect to have seen again. The parting opportunity with E.D. has left a savor on my mind which I hope will not soon be forgotten.
Before he left England he opened negotiations with several mercantile houses, who gave him orders for linen yarn from Germany. At Hull he writes:
4 mo. 12. -- My detention here, waiting for a fair wind to Hamburg, has not been unpleasant; my friends are exceedingly kind, but my feelings in a religious sense have been rather depressing.
His heart was full of serious thoughts in anticipation of the voyage, which was then more formidable than it is now; but the joyful hope of a glorious immortality, if death should be suffered to overtake him, bore him up above his fears.
14th. -- May I be preserved in a holy reliance on the Arm of strong Power for help. |O Lord God, who is a strong Lord like unto Thee, or to thy faithfulness round about Thee? Thou rulest the raging of the sea: when the waves thereof arise, Thou stillest, them.| O may it please him to carry me in his bosom, and protect me from the dangers of the sea. But should it please him to permit that I go down to the bottom, may I be fully resigned in humble confidence that I shall again arise to shine brighter with him in everlasting glory. Amen.
We shall conclude this chapter with a few extracts from Elizabeth Yeardley's letters, which well depict her character and experience; and with a copy of the weighty and pertinent testimony regarding Joseph Wood which was issued by Pontefract Monthly Meeting.
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7 mo. 13, 1818. -- The broad way seems more and more crowded, while the road to Zion is thinly scattered with poor wayworn travellers; each, or nearly so, of the former living as if there were to be no hereafter, and earth was to be their eternal home. I have thought that as our Blessed Redeemer's arms were extended wide on the cross to embrace perishing sinners, so do these short-sighted mortals extend their arms and their wishes in grasping unsubstantial vanities, and that craving one of Mammon, the most fascinating of all, as it increases with age.
9 mo.24, 1819. -- I hope by what I have felt of the keen arrow of adversity piercing the heart, it will teach me, when I see it wounding any of my fellow-mortals, to endeavor to soothe, if I have nothing else in my power towards healing the wound. Let thee and me be determined, in the name of the holy Jesus, to follow him and not look on others. He is leading us into the pure green, ever green, pasture of humiliation, where the sheep of his pasture love to lie. I own the road is not very pleasant; the descent is rugged, and many times the poor traveller is ashamed of being seen hobbling down by his former acquaintance; but when once within the sacred enclosure, the sweet air that breathes humility hushes all stormy passions to rest. I read and read again of all those holy folks being divested of self, and anxiously do I desire to be so too, but by the marks they lay down I am very far from that attainment. However, He who said, Let there be light, and there was light, can add this to the rest of his inestimable blessings showered on my unworthy head.
4 mo.14, 1820. -- We are sometimes led to expect pity from people where we think we have a sort of claim, and here we often feel disappointed. Persons at ease cannot feel for the sensations of pain in others, any more than prosperity can feel the seasons of adversity. Couldst thou have a look into the houses and bosoms of the inmates of most in B. or other places, thou wouldst find a something sorrowful, a burden the possessor would be glad to be quit of. Let us, then, go forward with hope, and endeavor to be truly thankful for the many mercies showered on our heads, who have not rendered as we ought that gratitude so greatly His due. O look at the bulk of the population in England, whose children are looking up to them for a meal, and they have it not for them; and then let the tear of thankfulness fall. To be thankful is to feel a spark of heavenly flame; to be thankful is to increase the blessing already poured forth. O that I possessed more of this blessed spirit; for truly it is angelic!
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A Testimony of Pontefract Monthly Meeting concerning JOSEPH WOOD, deceased.
This our esteemed friend was born at Newhouse, near Highflatts, within the compass of this Monthly Meeting, on the 26th of the Fourth Month, 1750. His parents, Samuel and Susanna Wood, members of our Society, were concerned for the best interest of their children. In his youth he gave way to some of the vanities incident to that period of life, but when approaching manhood he was happily brought under the restraining power of Truth, and often humbled in deep inward exercise. Once being in the fields in the night season, he exclaimed, Lord what shall I do, or whither shall I go? The answer in the secret of his own heart was as intelligible as if spoken to his outward ear, -- Whither wilt thou go, Have not I the words of eternal life? Soon after this he attended a neighboring meeting, when a ministering Friend, who was a stranger, stood up with the words which he had received as an answer to his inquiry, and enlarged upon the subject in a manner suited to his tried state of mind.
In the year 1779, in the twenty-ninth year of his age, was his first appearance in the ministry, in great fear and broken-ness of spirit: but being obedient to the manifestations of truth, he experienced an advancement therein, and was a good example, adorning his profession by a circumspect life. His testimony was not with the enticing words of man's wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power. Neither was he forward to offer his gift, patiently abiding in the deep till he felt the holy fire burn. He was at times led in a plain close manner to the unfaithful professors of truth, but had the word of consolation to the rightly exercised, unto whom he was indeed a nursing father. He was especially useful to such as the Lord was gathering from the barren mountains of an empty profession to the knowledge of the truth, and he was frequent, in solemn supplication for these, and for the awakening of those who were at ease in Zion. His heart being enlarged in gospel love, he was anxious for the salvation of all, and was frequently engaged to appoint meetings amongst those not in profession with us. For this service he was eminently gifted, and his ministry on these occasions was often attended with the powerful baptizing influence of the Spirit, to the convincement of many. He was concerned to impress on the minds of his friends the necessity of a due attendance of week-day meetings, believing that such as were negligent in this duty never experienced an attainment to the state of strong men in the truth. That our dear friend was zealous for the proper support of discipline in our religious body was sufficiently evident from the part he took in the exercise of it in his own Monthly Meeting; for active service in this important branch of church government he was eminently gifted.
In the course of his religious labors, he visited the meetings of Friends generally in most of the Quarterly Meetings in England, and many meetings within the principality of Wales; and divers of them repeatedly.
During the latter period of his life, feeling his bodily strength decline, he was anxiously desirous that no service required of him should be omitted. His zeal increased with his years, and he became more abundant in labor for the promotion of the Christian cause. In a memorandum made about a year before his death, he writes, |This day I attained the seventieth year of my age. May the remainder of my days be so devoted to the Lord's service, as, when the solemn message of death is sent, I may have nothing to do but to render up my accounts with joy!| In the last Monthly Meeting he attended, he expressed amongst us that he had seen in the vision of life that day, that there were of the youth there present those who, if they were faithful and kept in their innocency, would become instruments of good, and finally would shine as the stars, for ever and ever.
The day before his death, the first day of the week, he appeared in his own meeting at Highflatts, in a powerful testimony, beginning with these words of Moses to Hobab: |We are journeying unto the place of which the Lord said, I will give it you. Come thou with us, and we will do thee good; for the Lord hath spoken good concerning Israel.| In the course of his testimony he had in strong terms to urge the necessity of a preparation for an awful eternity. In the afternoon of the same day he complained of a pain in his breast and arms, but was not considered in danger. He retired to bed at his usual hour; but he slept little, and quietly departed about five o'clock the following morning, the 26th of the Third Month, 1821; and was buried at Highflatts the 31st of the same; (many Friends and others attended the meeting on this solemn occasion, which was eminently owned by the presence of the Great Shepherd of Israel;) aged seventy-one years, a minister about forty-two years.