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Memoir And Diary Of John Yeardley Minister Of The Gospel by John Yeardley




On the 27th of the Tenth Month John and Martha Yeardley crossed the Swiss frontier to Schaffhausen, where their presence was welcomed by several pious persons. Amongst these were a young woman, Caroline Keller, who from a religions motive had altered her dress and manners to greater simplicity, and John Lang, Principal of the United Brethren's Society. In a social meeting convened on the evening of their arrival, J.L. directed the conversation to the principles of friends, and J. and M.Y. explained the views held by the Society on silent worship, the ministry, and the disuse of ceremonies.

The [French] language, says J.Y., was difficult to me; but by the grace of God I was helped, and they were quite ready to seize the sense of what we endeavored to convey. The love of God was felt among us, and the Principal said, at parting, that he had not before been so impressed with our views. I sent him Tuke's |Principles,| and he told me yesterday he was attentively studying it. My dear M.Y. told me it had been given her to believe we were in our right place, and that we were called by religious intercourse to bear witness for our Lord and Master and his good cause.

I am afraid, he remarks in a letter in which he describes their service at Schaffhausen, I am afraid thou wilt think me too minute in my details; but really when I enter into the feeling which accompanied us in these visits, it seems as if I could scarcely quit it.

They spent the 29th at Schaffhausen in close Christian communion with two pious families. To C.K. particularly, at whose house they dined, they felt so nearly united, that they scarcely knew how to part from her.

We have cause to be thankful, says J.Y., for our visit to Schaffhausen; but if we were more faithful we should be more useful. Our friends were quite inclined for us to have had a meeting with them, but we were too fearful to propose it. O vile weakness!

On the 31st they saw the Agricultural School for poor children at Beuggen. Amongst the boys were twelve young Greeks, who were being instructed in ancient and modern Greek, and in German. They had been sent to Switzerland by the German missionaries, and most of them had been deprived of their parents by the cruelty of the Turks. It was the intention of their benefactors that they should return to Greece to enlighten their countrymen. Their religious instruction was based simply upon the Bible, without reference to any particular creed.

In the Greek school, writes John Yeardley, we observed a serious man about thirty years of age, who had the appearance of a laborer, learning Greek. This was a little surprising, and led us to inquire the cause. The inspector readily gratified us: and gratifying indeed it was to hear that this poor man had given up his work of ship-carpenter, from pure conviction that he was called to go and instruct the poor Greeks at his own expense. He is intending to spend the winter in learning the modern Greek, and to proceed in the spring to Corfu. He intends to provide for his own living by working at his trade, and he will take for instruction about four boys at a time, and as soon as he has brought them forward enough, set them as monitors over others. Some time ago two young men were sent out by the Bible Society to Corfu; but before they reached the place of their destination they were deterred by the missionaries on account of the unsettled state of the country, and dared not proceed further for fear of losing their lives. It is remarkable that, at the juncture when these two young men were turned back by discouragement, this poor man should receive the impression to go to the same place. We desired to have an interview with him, and he was instantly sent for to the Inspector's room. After a few remarks which opened for us to make to him, he confessed he had no peace but when he thought of giving up to this feeling of duty, and that when he looked towards going he felt happy in the prospect of every hardship. It was remarked that, as this call was made from above, the great Master alone could guide his steps; he appeared fully sensible from whom his help must come. He is beloved by his employers, and has an excellent certificate from the pastor, of his moral and religious character.

On the 2nd of the Eleventh Month they went to Zurich, and the same day drove out over a very bad road to Pfaeffikon to visit the Herr von Campagne.

We had a cold wet journey, but the good old man gave us a hearty welcome to his house. He is seventy-six years of age. He asked us pleasantly how we came to think of visiting an old man who was on the brink of the grave. He had heard much of Friends, and wished, he said, to become personally acquainted with some of the Society. He is a most benevolent character, but we could not unite with all his religious views; he does not think it necessary to meet for religious worship; in short, his principles are much the same as those held by Jacob Boehmen.

We slept at his house, and next morning returned to Zurich, where we called on our particular friend Professor Gessner and his family, and we rejoiced mutually to see each other again.

In the afternoon they called on Pastor Koch, tutor to the young Prince of Mecklenburg, who was at that time in Switzerland, and the next morning, First-day, as they were holding their little meeting for worship, the Prince himself, with Herr Koch and the Herr von Brandenstein, gave them a visit. The Prince spoke English; and J.Y. says: --

I had a strong impression to speak to him in a serious way, which I was enabled to do at some length. On parting he held me with both his hands in mine, and said, |I thank you, sir, for your kind and instructive communication; I shall never forget it so long as I live.|

A little before twelve o'clock, he continues, came our kind young friend, Hannah Gessner, to accompany us to the ancient and worthy Bishop Hess. He is in his eighty-seventh year, but lively in spirit and active in mind. He is uncommonly liberal in his religious opinions, and his enlarged heart seemed to overflow with Christian love towards the followers of Christ under every name. He treated us as a father, and I felt instructed in being in his company. He gave us his portrait as a token of respect and friendship.

In the evening we took tea with Professor Gessner's sister, Lavater, in company with seven of the professor's daughters and sons, who are all serious persons. After some conversation on the order and ministry of our Society, it was proposed by dear Hannah, through her aunt, whether we would like to have a Meeting or the Scriptures read. After a portion of Scripture had been read silence ensued, in which my dear M. Y. and I said what was on our minds in testimony and supplication. It is a time of precious visitation to some of them. We felt sweet unity with Pastor Gessner, and believe him to be a gospel minister. On parting he took me in both arms, and said, in such a feeling manner that the words went to my very heart, |The Lord bless thee, and put the words of his wisdom into thy mouth.|

On the 6th they went to Berne, and the next morning they inspected Fellenberg's institution at Hofwyl.

It is, says John Yeardley, what it professes to be, for education in the fullest extent of the word, to give to those committed to their care an education suited to their circumstances and their future prospects in life. There is a first-rate boarding school, for young gentlemen; a middle school, for tradesmen, &c.; a [boys' and] girls' poor school of industry, for those who can pay nothing. -- (Letter to Josiah Forster.)

To J.Y. the most interesting department of this institution was the school of industry for poor children, in which at that time a hundred boys were clothed and educated. He describes at some length, and with evident approbation, the system on which the school was conducted; but adds, |I cannot say much as to religious instruction.|

From Hofwyl they proceeded through Lausanne to Geneva, where, being desirous of improving themselves in French, and the season not permitting them to travel, they hired a lodging, intending to remain two or three months.

As on their former visit, they held frequent intercourse with pious persons, several of them well known in the Christian world; such as Gaussen, Bost, and L'Huillier. Of Theodore L'Huillier. minister of the New Church, John Yeardley says: --

Though a moderate Calvinist, he embraced us at once on the broad principle of Christianity. We became acquainted with him two years ago, but think him now much deeper in the root of real religion.

11 mo.19. -- We called yesterday evening on our dear friend Owen, and met there a pious lady, Fanny Passavant. We had much serious conversation, I hope to profit, at least to our own minds; for we were given to see a little the importance of the situation in which we stand, and the necessity of being, in our intercourse with these religious persons, wise as serpents, and harmless as doves.

1828.1 mo.13. -- We have had much satisfaction in becoming acquainted with Ami Bost. He was one of the first who bore testimony to the light which broke forth in the corrupt church of Geneva, and he suffered much in defending the doctrines of the New Church. In Germany he was, with his wife and six or seven children, driven from town to town by the police, for holding religious meetings in his house, and for refusing to have his children baptised. His sentiments in the office of the ministry and the appointment of preachers, are in perfect unison with those of Friends; also on the ordinances of the Supper, &c.

1 mo.20. -- During the greater part of our stay at this place I have felt my mind extremely poor, but a secret desire and prayer has been maintained to be preserved in patience, believing it to be as necessary to learn to suffer as to do. And although it is apparently little we can do here, we have felt repeatedly the assurance that it is the ordering of Best Wisdom, and as such we are well satisfied.

After our little morning meeting we went to dine with dear Captain Owen, and spent the remainder of the day with a few religious friends there. When the evening reading was finished, we had a solemn time under the seasoning influence of divine love. Our hearts were too full for any religious communication, except supplication, which was offered both by my dear M.Y. and myself.

Martha Yeardley also gives an account of this meeting, and of a visit they paid to the Female Prison.

Before our departure for Lausanne and Neufchatel, a relation of Mary Ann Vernet's kindly attended us to the female prison, and introduced us to others of the committee; and in the evening we had a religious opportunity with the few confined there, during which they evinced much feeling. Our interesting companion told us the next morning that she trusted the circumstance would be blessed to them. We had also a very interesting opportunity at Charles Owen's the evening before we left, at which was present, as often before, a very precious friend of ours, of the name of Fanny Passavant, a single woman, very rich, yet who lives in great self-denial, and gives almost all she has to feed the poor. She is what they call in this country a very interior character; which means one that cherishes the inward life. In her company we often felt baptized together, and she gave us strong recommendations to some of the same class at Neufchatel, who are desiring to learn in the school of Christ. -- (Letter to Elizabeth Dudley.)

At the expiration of their sojourn in Geneva, they did not, as they had expected to do, proceed to the valleys of Piedmont, but, as the last extract intimates, turned their steps towards Neufchatel. The motives which influenced them in this change of purpose are described by John Yeardley, in a letter to his brother, of the 11th of the Second Month, 1828.

In my last to thee I signified our intention of departing for the valleys of Piedmont, which did not take place. After due consideration of the subject for more than two months, in a state of humble resignation to be directed aright in this important matter, we did not feel it press with sufficient weight on our minds to warrant our moving in the face of so much difficulty as is at present in the way. We have always considered our safety in such engagements to depend on taking step by step in the fresh light afforded; and it is a favor to know when and where to stand, as well as when to go forward.

While the way to Piedmont was thus for a time obstructed, a door was set open for them in a part of Switzerland which they had not yet visited. From John Yeardley's reflections before they left Geneva, it would appear that in the discouragement they felt in the prospect of a long journey through France, they were little aware of that plentiful repast of spiritual food which was to be served to them before they would have to cross the Jura.

In looking towards the long journey before us, writes J.Y., I have been much discouraged, almost fearing to depart from this place without first being favored with more quietude of mind, which I was this morning favored to feel in a greater degree than has been the case for a long time. In my last solitary walk to La Traille, I was led to pray in secret for preservation on our journey, and almost to ask an assurance of protection, but received for answer, |Go, in faith.|

On the 21st of the First Month, they left Geneva and went forward to Lausanne, where they were again refreshed with the society of some spiritually-minded persons.

23rd -- We visited several of the pastors. We found M. Fevaz, minister of the Seceders in this place, very interesting, humble, and spiritual. He related to us, in much simplicity and candor, that in the commencement of their separation they were strenuous to preach doctrinal sermons, but now they had been favored to see the necessity of preaching purification of heart through the operation of the Spirit.

Called on -- -- Gaudin, who keeps a boarding-school in a beautiful situation near the town. We had not been long in the company of him and his dear wife, before we felt much contrited together, and had a precious religious opportunity. At parting, the dear man, with myself, was quite broken into tears. We left with him, as well as with the others, Judge Hale's |Testimony to the Secret Support of Divine Providence,| which we had translated, and had got printed at Geneva.

On the 24th they proceeded to Neufchatel. This was a memorable visit.

We soon found cause, writes John Yeardley, to believe the Great Master had been before us, to prepare the way in the hearts of many to receive the doctrine he has mercifully enabled us to preach. Our dear F. Passavant had given us a letter of introduction to Auguste Borel, a man of few words, but of a remarkably weighty and sweet spirit, who received us with the greatest affection. He has lately separated from the national worship, and retires in silence in his own chamber. He soon made us acquainted with a few others of a similar turn of mind.

Martha Yeardley, describing the commencement of their religious service in this place, says: --

We were invited to a meeting which we felt most easy to attend, and my husband was given full liberty to speak if he felt inclined; but for a while the usual activity of their meetings -- such as singing, commenting on texts with Calvinistic explanations, &c. -- entirely closed our way. But before they separated I ventured to request, in the name of my husband, that such as inclined would favor us with their company a while longer, and rest a little in silence. Nearly all remained, and under a solemn covering he addressed the company, while I translated in much fear, yet ventured at the end to say a few words for myself. Several of the company attended us home, and expressed much satisfaction: and from this time a door was opened to us at Neufchatel in a very remarkable manner. They flocked to our inn at all times in the day and in considerable numbers, many acknowledging, in the course of very interesting conversation, that they thirsted for something more satisfying than mere doctrines continually repeated -- something that would preserve from evil, that would cleanse the heart, that would bring into nearer communion with the Saviour. -- (Letter to Elizabeth Dudley.)

On the 27th, continues the Diary, A. Borel conducted us to a meeting with some interior persons, about three miles from town. It was a time of close exercise of mind, but ended to satisfaction, and, I hope, to the edification and strength of some present. The master of the house, Professor Petavel, said that never until that evening had he been able to see clearly the beauty and advantage of pure spiritual worship, contrasted with outward forms.

After, having taken tea with a large company, our kind guide conducted us through woods and over mountainous and bad roads to a village, where a large concourse of people were assembled for worship. A schoolmaster was speaking on a chapter which had been read: we had full unity with what he delivered, which was accompanied with a power which convinced us that he really preached the gospel. After he had done, we were introduced as religious strangers from England; and silence ensuing, opportunity was given for us to express what came before us.

28th. -- Some of the most interior told us they had long been exercised about spiritual worship, and had often wished to see some of the Society of Friends. On hearing of our intended visit two years ago, they said if we had come then [we should have found them] wrapped up in doctrines, but now they were given to see they could not live on the letter alone, they must be born again, and partake of that bread which cometh down from heaven. Many of these awakened persons came to our inn at all hours, and our hearts were filled with love towards them as a cup overflowing; so that it was given to us to minister to them almost individually as they came to us.

On the 29th they went to Berne, and the following morning walked over to Wabern, where some of A. Borel's friends resided, who received them with open arms.

After dinner M. Combe drove us in his car to Scherli. We alighted at the house of one of the peasant-farmers, situated quite among the mountains, with the Alps fair in view. They received us in the name of disciples with every mark of love and respect. They were more disposed to sit in silence than to ask questions. On my asking if they had seen or heard of any of our Friends, in these parts, one of them, innocently replied, No; we do not know anything of your religious principles. I then began to explain them; and when I spoke of our manner of worship, belief, &c., and of some of our peculiar tenets respecting Baptism, the Supper, &c., it is not possible to express their emotion; their eyes turned first towards one and then towards another, and seemed to sparkle with joy, without their uttering a word till I had done. These were entirely the principles they held, and about a year ago they separated from the church, about twenty in number, and attempted to meet for religious worship. This was prevented by the police; for although, they live in a very remote situation, they are strictly watched by the pastor, who wishes to compel them to come to his worship. We were there only an hour or two, but a number of these innocent-hearted people came flocking to the house, and immediately settled into a silence truly solemn. We could indeed say our hearts burned with love towards them.

Two of these young men came to us the nest day, and spent most of the day with us. One of them, Christian Speicher, told me he did not know how to express the satisfaction he felt to hear of a body of professing Christians in a distant land, who held the same religious principles as they in their isolated situation had been long seeking after and had been made willing to suffer for.

During our stay under this hospitable roof [M. Combe's at Wabern] it was an open house for all comers, and they were not few. Our spirits were so united with many of them we did not know how to leave them; but our great concern was to recommend them to remain with Him who had so mercifully and powerfully visited them.

On the 31st they returned to Berne, and the next day called upon a pious chimney-sweeper, waiting whilst he changed his sooty clothes.

We were not a little surprised to hear him of his own accord, without knowing who we were, declare the same doctrine as we are concerned to preach. There are a few inward persons who assemble at his house, and hold the same sentiments. About a year and a half or two years ago, there was a remarkable awakening in the canton of Berne, and a few here and there of a more spiritually-minded sort seceded. There is a ferment to prevent their meeting together, and to compel them to go to the usual place of worship; but in vain, for nothing but spiritual food can satisfy their hungry souls.

On their return to Neufchatel they visited the celebrated school of the Moravians at Montmirail, where, says Martha Yeardley --

We soon felt quite at home with a precious, spiritually-minded man, the master, and his agreeable English wife. This is an excellent institution, for females only, and several English are there. We were about seventy in company at dinner, and much sweet feeling prevailed. The master of this interesting family was delighted to hear something of Friends to whom he had never before been introduced.

At Neufchatel, on First-day (2 mo.3,) they met large companies in the morning and evening, and the next morning took leave of their friends in that city, |deeply humbled under a sense of the great Master's work among them.| They went to Locle under the conduct of A. Borel, whose |kindness exceeded all description.|

On the way, writes John Yeardley, we took refreshment at a pious man's house in the morning, and dined at another friend's, with whom, we had a precious religious opportunity. It reminded me of the mode of visiting our own dear Friends in England; we find in the hearts of these visited children of the Universal Parent genuine hospitality; they hand us of all they have in their houses in the name of disciples.

At Locle they were met by Mary Anne Calame, with whom their hearts became instantly knit in the strongest Christian friendship.

She came before we were well alighted. We had heard much of the character and benevolent exertions of this dear woman but could say in truth the half had not been told us. Her countenance is strong and impressive, her hair jet black, cut short, and worn without cap; her dress of the most simple and least costly kind. Her sole desire seems to be to do the will of her Lord and Master in caring for 170 poor children, who are in the institution at bed, board, and instruction. The forenoon was spent in looking over the schools and hearing the children examined. The house is a refuge for the lame, blind, deaf, dumb, and sick. Peace and contentment prevail through the whole. This establishment was commenced about twelve years ago with five children, and has prospered in a remarkable manner. M.A.C. is one with Friends in principle, and, as well as some others of the family, entirely separated from the usual forms of worship.

Martha Yeardley, in a letter from which we have already quoted, describes the origin of the asylum.

About twelve years since M.A. Calame believed herself called to form an institution for orphans and unfortunate children. She associated some others with her for this object, but having peculiar views on religious subjects, and more perseverance than her colleagues, she was soon left nearly alone, with means entirely inadequate to the increasing demands, viz., about three francs yearly from a very limited number of persons. The children daily augmented, and she dared not refuse admission: when in necessity she was encouraged to trust from unexpected donations. This increased her faith; and after some years, a boys' school was added. In this way the institution has been supported without any regular funds.

Her faith is still often very severely tried, but they have never yet been suffered to want. Her refuge in times of extremity is prayer, and it has been in some instances very evidently answered, so that she has severely reproached herself for daring to doubt. In speaking on this subject she said to me: |I am at times much beset with temptations when I consider the number I have thus collected without any visible or certain means of support; but how can I dare to doubt after so many proofs of the care of the great Master? He knows our wants; he knows these dear children have need of food and clothing, and he provides it for them; and he knows that all I desire is to do his will.|

On remarking to her the sweet tranquillity and order which reign in these schools, she said, |It is the Master's work; they are taught to love him above all, and to do all for his sake.| We felt very nearly united to her and to an intimate friend who resides with her: they are both what are called deeply interior characters, and have long withdrawn from the places of public worship, but fully unite with our views.

She is really a very extraordinary character, extremely simple and cheerful in her manners, possessing great natural talents, and evincing in her conducting of the institution, not only the Spirit, but the understanding also. -- (To Elizabeth Dudley, 2 mo.7, 1828.)

With Locle, John and Martha Yeardley's mission to Switzerland for this time terminated. They crossed the frontier into France, and made the best of their way through that country, in order to proceed to the Channel Islands.

This morning (2 mo.5,) writes J.Y., Mary Anne Calame and her friend Zimmerling, with A. Borel, accompanied us two leagues to the ferry, and saw us safe over into France. This last parting with friends so dear to us in a foreign land, was very touching; our hearts were humbled under a sense of the Heavenly Father's love.

6th. -- Passing the custom-house made us late at our quarters, where they are not accustomed to receive such guests. Their curiosity to see and know who we are is very great. To prevent French imposition, my M.Y. was to bargain beforehand for what we had. On asking what the meal would cost, we were answered they could not tell, for they did not know how much coffee we should drink. This simple but appropriate reply so amused us that it put an end to our bargaining.

I shall not soon forget the sensation I felt on passing the river into France. I could not forbear drawing the discouraging contrast of quitting those to whom we had become united in the gospel of peace, in a country the most beautiful that Nature can present, with a long journey in prospect through a dreary country whose inhabitants wish only to get what they can from us. These discouraging fears could only be silenced by reflecting that the same protecting Providence presides over all and everywhere.

Travelling with their own single horse, their favorite Poppet, the progress they made was necessarily slow, and they did not reach Paris till the 19th. After spending a few days in that city, they proceeded to Cherbourg, and arrived there after six days of hard travelling. At this place John Yeardley writes: --

3 mo.2. -- In looking back on our late travels, a degree of sweet peace and thankfulness covered my mind in the humble belief that our weak but sincere desires to do the great Master's will was a sacrifice well-pleasing in his holy sight. In looking forward to the dangers we had still to encounter, I was led closely to examine on what our hope of preservation was fixed. Should it please Him who had hitherto blessed us with his presence and protecting care, to put our faith again to the test, how we could bear it, how we should feel at the prospect of going down to the bottom of the great deep. I felt a particular satisfaction that our great journey had first been accomplished; if this had not been the case it would have been a sting in my conscience. But now an awful resignation was experienced, and it came before me as an imperious duty to be resigned to life or death; and the joyful hope resounded in my heart, All will be well to those who love not their lives unto death.

The presentiment of danger which this passage describes was speedily fulfilled, as was also the hopeful promise by which it was accompanied. They were detained at Cherbourg until the 13th, waiting for a vessel. Leaving port early that morning, they landed in Guernsey the next day; and it was in going ashore that they were exposed to some danger of their lives. John Yeardley thus relates the occurrence: --

I descended first into a little boat, and standing on the side to take my M.Y. down, the man not holding the boat secure to the ship, our weight pushed it from us, and we plunged headlong into the sea. My dear M.Y.'s clothes prevented her from sinking, and she was first assisted again into the boat. I went overhead, and had to swim several turns before I could reach the boat. The salt water being warm, and the time not long, we received no further injury. What shall we render unto the Lord for all his mercies to us, his poor unworthy servants! how often has he made bare his mighty arm for our deliverance. In the midst of danger fear was removed from us, and we were blessed with the unspeakable advantage of presence of mind, and enabled to use the best means under Divine Providence to save our lives.

They visited the Friends and a few other persons in Guernsey and Jersey, and then proceeded to Weymouth, and on the 25th to Bristol. At Bristol and Tewkesbury they were deeply interested in the state of the meetings, and had some remarkable service in both places. Taking also Nottingham and Chesterfield in their way, and being |well satisfied in not having overrun them,| they arrived at the cottage at Burton on the 8th of the Fourth Month, having been absent about nine months.

In the retrospect, say they, of this long and arduous journey, we have this testimony unitedly to bear, -- that the Arm of divine love has been underneath to support and help us; and although we have had many deep baptisms to pass through, especially when we beheld how in many places the fields are white unto harvest, and were fully sensible of our own inability to labor therein, yet He who, we trust, sent us forth was often pleased to raise us from the depth of discouragement, to rejoice in him our Saviour. If any fruits arise from our feeble efforts to promote his cause, it will be from his blessing resting upon them, for nothing can possibly be attached to us but weakness and want of faith. But, blessed be his holy name, he knew the sincerity of our endeavors to do his will, and has been pleased in his condescending mercy to fill our hearts with his enriching peace. Amen.

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