MEMOIR AND DIARY
OF JOHN YEARDLEY,
Minister of the Gospel.
EDITED BY CHARLES TYLOR.
"Should time with me now close, I die in peace with my God, and in that love for mankind which believes 'every nation to be our nation, and every man our brother.'"—Diary of J. Yeardley..
PHILADELPHIA: HENRY LONGSTRETH, 1336 CHESTNUT STREET. 1860.
FROM JOHN YEARDLEY'S CONVERSION TO THE COMMENCEMENT OF HIS PUBLIC MINISTRY, 1803-15.
Birth and occupation Joseph Wood, of Newhouse Anecdote of Thomas Yeardley John Yeardley's conversion He enters T. D. Walton's linen warehouse Joins the Society of Friends Marriage with Elizabeth Dunn—Commencement of his Diary A. Clarke's "Commentary" Enters into business on his own account Visit of Sarah Lameley Call to the ministry
FROM HIS ENTRANCE ON THE MINISTRY IN 1815, TO HIS COMMISSION TO RESIDE IN GERMANY IN 1820.
First offerings in the ministry Is unsuccessful in business Removes to Bentham His views on the Christian ministry Visit of Hannah Field Is recorded a minister Visits Kendal and Lancaster, in company with Joseph Wood Visit to Friends at Barnsley Journey to York Letters to Thomas Yeardley
FROM HIS COMMISSION TO RESIDE ABROAD IN 1820, TO HIS REMOVAL TO GERMANY IN 1822.
Prospect of residing in Germany Visit from John Kirkham Liverpool Quarterly Meeting Public meeting at Wray Visit of Ann Jones Journey to Leeds Death of Joseph Wood Illness of Elizabeth Yeardley Her death John Yeardley goes to Hull Extracts from Elizabeth Yeardley's letters Testimony concerning Joseph Wood
HIS FIRST RESIDENCE IN GERMANY, 1822-24.
Sails to Hamburg—His lodging at Eppendorf Arrives at Pyrmont Friedensthal Religious service with Thomas Shillitoe Establishment of the Reading and Youths' meetings at Pyrmont Mode of bleaching Visiters at the Baths attend Pyrmont meeting J.Y. visits Minden and Eidinghausen Plan for helping the Friends of Minden Journey to Leipzig Returns to England
FROM HIS RETURN TO ENGLAND IN 1824, TO THE COMMENCEMENT OF HIS FIRST CONTINENTAL JOURNEY IN 1825.
Mental depression Journey with Elizabeth H. Walker through the Midland Counties Yearly Meeting Returns to Friedensthal Humiliation Certificate for the South of France Martha Savory's visit to the Continent Journey to Rotterdam
HIS FIRST CONTINENTAL JOURNEY, 1825-26.
John Yeardley and his companions leave Pyrmont Visit Elberfeld, Creveldt, Muehlheim, &c. Neuwied—the Inspirirten Journey to Berlenburg Are placed under arrest at Erndebrueck Set at liberty by the Landrath of Berlenburg The Old and New Separatists Gelnhausen and Raneberg Pforzheim—H. Kienlin Stuttgardt, Basle, &c. Zurich—the Gessner family Berne Geneva Journey to Congenies Religious service in the South of France St. Etienne Return to England
HIS MARRIAGE WITH MARTHA SAVORY, 1826-27.
John Yeardley goes into Yorkshire Death of his parents Marriage with Martha Savory Biographical notice of Martha Savory Letter from Martha Yeardley J. and M. Y. take up their abode at Burton, near Barnsley
THE SECOND CONTINENTAL JOURNEY, 1827-28.
J. and M.Y. sail to Rotterdam Minden, &c. Journey to the shores of the North Sea Visit to the colonists on the Grodens Fredericks-Oort Frankfort Darmstadt—Durkheim Stuttgart Kornthal Wilhelmsdorf
THE SECOND CONTINENTAL JOURNEY, 1827-28.
Schaffhausen Beuggen Zurich Hofwyl—Geneva—A. Bost Lausanne Neufchatel Berne and the neighborhood Montmirail—Neufchatel Locle—Mary Anne Calame Journey through France Guernsey—Accident on the water
HOME OCCUPATIONS AND TRAVELS IN ENGLAND AND WALES, 1828-33.
Illness of Martha Yeardley Letter from M.A. Calame Yearly Meeting Letter from Auguste Borel—Public meetings in Yorkshire Death of James A. Wilson—Journey through the Western Counties Various religious engagements Journey through Wales with Elizabeth Dudley Visit to Lancashire Removal to Scarborough Establishment of a Bible-class at ditto Prospects of a journey to Greece Argyri Climi Yearly Meeting of Ministers and Elders
THE THIRD CONTINENTAL JOURNEY, OR THE JOURNEY TO GREECE, 1833-34.
PART I.—THE JOURNEY TO ANCONA.
Paris Death of Rachel Waterhouse Nancy Phalsbourg—Strasburg—Pastor Majors Ban de la Roche Basle Neufchatel Polish Count and Countess Geneva Journey through Italy Letters from Friends in England
THE THIRD CONTINENTAL JOURNEY, 1833-34.
Corfu Count F. Sardina Santa Maura Wigwam village on the mainland Cephalonia—Zante Patras—the Gulf of Corinth Galaxidi—Trying situation Castri (the ancient Delphi) Journey to Athens Athens Corinth Detentions—Vostizza Patras Corfu
THE THIRD CONTINENTAL JOURNEY, 1833-34.
PART III.—THE RETURN FROM GREECE.
Letters from John Rowntree and William Allen Ancona Florence The Custom-house—Piedmont Geneva Lausanne Berne Zurich—Schaffhausen Basle—Death of Thomas Yeardley Death of M.A. Calame Neufchatel Return to England—Death of A.B. Savory
FROM THE END OF THE THIRD CONTINENTAL JOURNEY IN 1834 TO THE COMMENCEMENT OF THE FOURTH IN 1842.
Divisions in the Society of Friends Employment of leisure time Girls' Lancasterian school at Scarborough Death of Elizabeth Rowntree—Letter from M.Y. to Elizabeth Dudley Visit to Thame Visit to Lancashire Visits to the Isle of Wight Death of John Rutter Prospect of revisiting the Continent
THE FOURTH CONTINENTAL JOURNEY, 1842-43.
Amiens Paris Letters from E. Dudley and J. Rowntree Lyons Nismes—Boarding-school for girls Letter from John Rowntree Montpelier Lesengnan Maux Saverdun Toulouse Montauban—Castres Tullins—Grenoble Geneva Lausanne Neufchatel—Paul Petavel Locle Berne Basle Carlsruhe—Frankfort Accident to J.Y.—Vlotho
REMOVAL TO STAMFORD-HILL, AND COMMENCEMENT OF THE FIFTH CONTINENTAL JOURNEY, 1843-48.
Removal to Berkhamstead Removal to Stamford-hill Visit to the families of Gracechurch-St. Monthly Meeting Death of J.J. Gurney and I. Stickney Prepare for revisiting the Continent Brussels H. Van Maasdyk Charleroi—Spa Bonn Mannheim, Strasburg Basle Berne-Neufchatel Grenoble Privas—Vals Nismes—Congenies
COMPLETION OF THE FIFTH CONTINENTAL JOURNEY, 1849-50.
Letter from J.Y. to John Kitching Elberfeld—Muehlheim Bonn Kreuznach—J.A. Ott Mannheim Stuttgardt—Death of Elizabeth Dudley Kornthal Kreuznach Bonn Return home—Resume their journey Berlin—A. Beyerhaus Warmbrunn Illness of Martha Yeardley-Toeplitz Prague—Translation of tracts into the Bohemian language Kreuzuach—Neuwied
DEATH OF MARTHA YEARDLEY, AND JOHN YEARDLEY'S JOURNEY TO NORWAY, 1851-52.
Illness and death of Martha Yeardley J.Y. visits Ireland Prospect of a journey to Norway Homburg—Illness of J.Y. Christiana—Christiansand Stavanger Excursion up one of the fiords Bergen Meetings at Foedde and other places Obernkirchen
HIS JOURNEY TO SOUTH RUSSIA, 1853.
Passport—Sails from Hull Petersburg Moscow Journey to Iekaterinoslav Kharkov Rybalsk—The German Colonies The Molokans The Crimea—The Tartars A suspicious halting-place—Simpheropol Feodosia Odessa—Constantinople Smyrna Syra—Malta Nismes—Bagneres de Bigorre Pialoux
FROM HIS RETURN FROM RUSSIA TO HIS LAST JOURNEY, 1853-1858.
Visits Bath The Yearly Meeting—Life of J. J. Gurney Visit to Minden—Religious service in Yorkshire Goes again to Minden Neuveville Paris Visit to Bristol and Gloucester Quarterly Meetings Minden Visit to Birmingham, Leicester, &c. Goes to Nismes Visits Chelmsford, &c.
LAST JOURNEY AND DEATH, 1858. CONCLUDING REMARKS.
Religious Mission to Asiatic Turkey Voyage to Constantinople Sun-stroke Meetings in the neighborhood of Constantinople Is seized with paralysis, and returns home His death—Remarks on his character Notes of some of his public testimonies
FROM JOHN YEARDLEY's CONVERSION TO THE COMMENCEMENT OF HIS PUBLIC MINISTRY.
John Yeardley was born on the 3rd of the First Month, 1786, at a small farm-house beside Orgreave Hall, in the valley of the Rother, four miles south of Rotherham. His parents, Joel and Frances Yeardley, farmed some land, chiefly pasture, and his mother is said to have been famous for her cream-cheeses, which she carried herself to Sheffield market. She was a pious and industrious woman; but, through the misconduct of her husband, was sometimes reduced to such straits as scarcely to have enough food for her children.
Before they left Orgreave they were attracted towards the worship of Friends, and several of the family, including two of Joel Yeardley's sisters, embraced the truth as held by the Society. In the year 1802 they removed to a farm at Blacker, three miles south of Barnsley, and attended the meeting at Monk Bretton, or Burton, near that town, where the meeting-house then stood. At Blacker it was John's business to ride into Barnsley daily on a pony, with two barrels of milk to distribute to the customers of his mother's dairy. His elder brother Thomas worked on the farm.
Their attendance at Burton meeting brought the family under the notice of Joseph Wood, a minister of the Society, residing at Newhouse, near Highflatts, four miles from Penistone. Joseph Wood had been a Yorkshire clothier, but relinquished business in the prime of life, and spent the rest of his days in assiduous pastoral labor of a kind of which we have few examples. To attend a Monthly Meeting he would leave home on foot the Seventh-day before, with John Bottomley, also a Friend and preacher, and at one time his servant, for some neighboring meeting. He would occupy the evening with social calls, dropping at every house the word of exhortation or comfort. The meeting next day would witness his fervent ministry. In the afternoon they would proceed to the place where the Monthly Meeting was to be held the following day, which they would attend, filling up the time before and after with social and religious visits. In the intervals of the Monthly Meetings, when not engaged on more distant service, it was his practice to appoint meetings for worship in the villages around Highflatts, and very frequently to visit those places where individuals were "under convincement," particularly Barnsley and Dewsbury, where at that time many were added to the Society. On his return home from these services he would spend the day in an upper room, without a fire, even in the severest weather, writing a minute account of all that had happened.
It was in 1803 that Joseph Wood first had intercourse with Joel Yeardley's family. Under date of the 19th of the Fourth Month, he says, speaking of himself and some other concerned Friends:—
We felt an inclination to visit Joel Yeardley's family, who are under convincement, and who have lately removed from near Handsworth Woodhouse. We went to breakfast. He and Frances his wife, with Thomas and John their sons, the former about nineteen, the latter seventeen years of age, received us in a very kind and affectionate manner, expressing their satisfaction at our coming to see them. They appeared quite open, and gave us a particular account of the manner of their convincement and beginning to attend Friends' meetings, which was about four years ago. I believe there is a good degree of sincerity in the man and his wife, and the two sons appear to be tender and hopeful.
The next month Joseph Wood repeated his visit, and gives an account of the interview in the following words:—
5 mo., 1803.—Having ever since I was at Joel Yeardley's the last month, felt my mind drawn to sit with the family, and this appearing to me to be the right time, I set out from home the 14th of the Fifth Month, in company with John Bottomley. Got to Joel Yeardley's betwixt four and five o'clock. After tea, Thomas Dixon Walton and Samuel Coward of Barnsley came to meet us there. In the evening we had a precious opportunity together, in which caution, counsel, advice, and encouragement flowed plentifully, suited to the varied states of the family. I had a long time therein first, from 1 Cor. xv. 58; John Bottomley next. Afterwards I had a pretty long time, after which J.B. was concerned in prayer. At the breaking up of the opportunity I had something very encouraging to communicate to their son Thomas, who, I believe, is an exercised youth, to whom my spirit felt very nearly united.
Joel Yeardley unhappily did not long remain faithful to his convictions. He not only himself drew back from intercourse with Friends, but was unwilling his sons should leave their work to attend week-day meetings, and did all in his power to prevent them. This is shown by the following narrative from Joseph Wood's memoranda:—
As William Wass and I were going to attend a Committee at Highflatts, on our Monthly Meeting day, in the morning, we met with Thomas Yeardley of Blacker, near Worsbro', a young man who is under convincement. I was a little surprised to see him having on a green singlet and smock frock. He burst out into tears; I inquired the matter, and if something was amiss at home; he only replied, "Not much;" and we not having time to atop, proceeded, and he went forward to my house. This was on the 19th of the Ninth Month, 1803.
After the Monthly Meeting was over, I had an opportunity to inquire into the cause of his appearance and trouble, and found that he was religiously concerned to attend weekday meetings, which his father was much averse to; and in order to procure his liberty he had worked almost beyond his ability; but all would not do, his father plainly telling him that he should quit the house. The evening before, he applied to him for leave to come to the meeting at Highflatts to-day; but he refused, and treated him with very rough language. However, as the concern remained with him, he rose early in the morning and got himself ready; but his father came and violently pulled the clothes off his back, and his shirt also, and took all his other clothes from him but those we met him in, telling him to get a place immediately, for he should not stop in his house. Being thus stripped, he went to his work in the stable; but, not feeling easy without coming to meeting, he set out as he was, not minding his dress, so that he might but be favored to get to the meeting.
This evening we had an opportunity with him in my parlor, much to our satisfaction. The language of encouragement and consolation flowed freely and plentifully towards him through William Wass, John Bottomley, and myself; and afterwards, in conference with him, we found liberty to advise him to return home (he having before thought of procuring a place), believing if he was preserved faithful, way would in time be made for him, and that it might perhaps be a means of his father's restoration; as at times, he said, he appeared a little different, not having wholly lost his love to Friends, and always behaved kindly to them. He took our advice kindly, and complied therewith. After stopping two nights at my house, he returned home.
Joseph Wood did not suffer much time to elapse before he paid another visit to Blacker, to comfort the afflicted family. It was from this visit, as we apprehend, that John Yeardley dated his change of heart. "I was convinced," he said on one occasion, "at a meeting which Joseph Wood had with our family."
7 mo. 17, 1803.—Thomas Walker Haigh and William Gant accompanied us to Joel Yeardley's, where we tarried all night; but the two young men from Barnsley returned home after supper. Joel was from home, but after tea we had a religious opportunity with the rest of the family, in which I had a very long consolatory and encouraging testimony to bear to the deeply-suffering exercised minds from John xvi. 33. Afterwards I had a pretty long time, principally to their son John, who I believe was under a precious visitation from on high. He was much broken and tendered, and I hope this season of remarkable favor will not soon be forgotten by him.
On his return home Joseph Wood wrote him the following letter:—
Newhouse, 10 mo. 24, 1803
BELOVED FRIEND, JOHN YEARDLEY,
Thou hast often been in my remembrance since I last saw thee, accompanied with an earnest desire that the seed sown may prosper and bring forth fruit in its season, to the praise and glory of the Great Husbandman, who, I believe, is calling thee to glory, honor, immortality, and eternal life. And O mayest thou be willing in this the day of his power to leave all and follow him who hath declared, "Every one who hath forsaken houses, or brethren, or sisters, or father, or mother, or wife, or children, or lands, for my name's sake, shall receive an hundred-fold, and shall inherit everlasting life."
Not that we should be found wanting in our duty to our near connexions, for true religion does not destroy natural affection, but brings and preserves it in its proper place. When our earthly parents command one thing, and the Almighty another, it is better for us to obey God than man, and herein is our love manifested unto him by our obedience to his commands though it may sometimes clash against our parents' minds. At the same time it is our duty to endeavor to convince them, that we are willing to obey all their lawful commands, where they do not interfere with our duty to Him who hath given us life, breath, and being, and mercifully visited us by his grace. I thought a remark of this kind appeared to be required of me, apprehending if thou art faithful unto the Lord, thou wilt find it to be thy duty at times to leave thy worldly concerns to attend religious meetings, which may cause thee deep and heavy trials; but remember for thy encouragement, the promise of the hundred-fold in this world, and in that which is to come, eternal life.
Thou art favored with a pious though afflicted mother, and a religiously-exercised elder brother, who, I doubt not, will rejoice to see thee grow in the truth. May you all be blessed with the blessing of preservation, and strengthened to keep your ranks in righteousness, and may you be a strength and comfort to each other, and hold up a standard of truth and righteousness in the neighborhood where your lot is cast. Do not flinch, my beloved friend; be not ashamed to become a true follower of Christ. When little things are required of thee, be faithful; thus shalt thou be made ruler over more; when greater things are manifested to be thy duty, remember the Lord is able to support, who declared by the mouth of his prophet formerly, "Mine heritage is unto me as a speckled bird, the birds round about are against her." But if the Lord be on our side, it matters little who may be permitted to arise against us, for his power is above all the combined powers of the wicked one, and he will bless and preserve those who above all things are concerned to serve him faithfully, which that thou mayest be is the sincere desire of thy truly loving and affectionate friend,
The word which had been so fitly spoken took deep root in John Yeardley's heart, and on the following New-year's day he went up to Newhouse to converse with his experienced and sympathizing friend.
On the 1st of the First Month, 1804, (writes Joseph Wood,) John Yeardley came to my house, on purpose to see me. He got here betwixt ten and eleven o'clock in the forenoon, attended our meeting and tarried with us until after tea, and then returned home. He is a hopeful youth, tender in spirit, and of a sweet natural disposition; was convinced of the truth in an opportunity I had at his father's house, and, I hope, is likely to do well. I love him much, and much desire his preservation, growth, and establishment upon the everlasting foundation, against which the gates of Hell are not able to prevail.
Shortly after this, we obtain from John Yeardley's own hand an insight into the depth of those religious convictions which had so mercifully been vouchsafed to him. The manner in which this interesting memorandum concludes is quaint, but it expresses a resolution to which he was enabled to adhere in a remarkable degree throughout the course of his long life; for of him it may be said that, beyond many, his pursuits, his aims, and his conversation were not of the world, but were bounded by the line of the Gospel, and animated by its self-denying spirit.
Blacker, 2 mo. 9, 1804.—As I pursued these earthly enjoyments, it pleased the Lord, in the riches of his mercy to turn me back in the blooming of my youth, and favor me with the overshadowing of his love, to see the splendid pleasures that so easily detained my precious time. He was graciously pleased to call me to the exercise of that important work which must be done in all our hearts, which appears to me no small cross to my own will, and attended with many discouragements; yet I am made to believe it is the way wherein I ought to go; and I trust Thou, O Lord, who hast called, will enable me to give up, and come forward in perfect obedience to the manifestations of thy divine light, so as a thorough change may be wrought, that I may be fitted and prepared for a place in thy everlasting kingdom. Though at times I am led into great discouragement, and almost ready to faint by the way, fearing I shall never be made conqueror over those potent enemies who so much oppose my happiness, O be Thou near in these needful times, and underneath to bear me up in all the difficulties which it is necessary I should pass through for my further refinement, whilst I have a being in this earthly pilgrimage. Strong are the ties that seem to attach me to the earth; but O! I have cause to believe, from a known sense, stronger are the ties of thy overshadowing Spirit than all the ties of natural affection. Great and frequent are the trials and temptations, and narrow is the way wherein we ought to walk; alas! too narrow for many. O may I ever be preserved, faithfully forward to the eternal land of rest!
Dear Lord, who knowest the secret of all hearts, thou knowest I am at times under a sense of great weakness; but thou, who art always waiting to gather the tender youth into thy flock and family, hast mercifully reached over me with thy gathering arm. Mayst thou ever be near to strengthen me in every weakness; and make me willing to leave all, take up my daily cross, and follow thee in the denial of self, not fearing to confess thee before men. Always give me strength to perform whatsoever thou mayest require at my hands; wean my affections more and more; attract me nearer to thyself; and lead me through this world as a stranger, never to be known to it more but by the name of JOHN YEARDLEY.
In the Third Month Joseph Wood again addressed his young friend by letter, encouraging him to be steadfast in trial, and to beware of the gilded baits of the enemy; and promising him, that if he followed the Lord faithfully, his works should appear marvellous in his eyes, his wonders be disclosed to him in the deeps, and he on his part would be made willing to serve him with a perfect heart.
In the Sixth Month, again visiting Blacker, he had a "precious, heart-tendering religious opportunity with all the family."
About this time Joel Yeardley was so much reduced in his circumstances as to be obliged to give up farming, which compelled his sons to seek their own means of livelihood. Thomas and John went into Barnsley, where they applied themselves to the linen manufacture, and were taken into the warehouse of Thomas Dixon Walton, a Friend, who afterwards married a daughter of Thomas Shillitoe.
In the First Month, 1806, Joseph Wood records another interesting interview with his young friend:—
1 mo. 7.—I called on Thomas Dixon Walton and John Yeardley, with whom I had a religious opportunity in which the language of encouragement flowed freely; I being opened unto them from Luke xii. 32; "Fear not, little flock, for it is your Father's good pleasure to give you the kingdom."
In the Third Month of this year John Yeardley made application for membership in the Society of Friends, and was admitted in the Fifth Month following, being then twenty years of age. His brother Thomas had joined the Society some time before. The brothers are thus described by one who knew them intimately:—Thomas, as a man of homely manners, of hearty and genial character, and greatly beloved; John, as possessing a native refinement which made it easy for him in after-life to rise in social position, but whose reserved habits caused him to be less generally appreciated.
The call which John Yeardley received, and which he so happily obeyed, to leave the world and enter by the strait gate into the kingdom of heaven, was accompanied, as we shall afterwards see more fully, by a secret conviction that he would one day have publicly to preach to others the Gospel of salvation. A sense that such was the case seems to have taken hold of Joseph Wood's mind, in a visit which he made him some time after his admission into the Society.
1 mo. 29, 1808.—Sat with T.D. Walton and his wife, and his man John Yeardley. I had two pretty long testimonies to bear from Colossians iv. 17. I had to show the necessity there was for those who had received a gift in the ministry to be faithful, and, as Satan was as busy about these as any others, to be careful to withstand his temptations, that nothing might hinder our fulfilment of this gift, nor anything be suffered to prevail over us that might hinder its proper effect upon others.
After Thomas was gone to breakfast, my mind was unexpectedly opened in a pretty long encouraging testimony to John, from John xxi. 22—"What is that to thee? follow thou me;" having gently to caution him not to look at others to his hurt, but faithfully follow his Master, Jesus Christ, in the way of his leadings.
In 1809 John Yeardley married Elizabeth Dunn. She was much older than himself, "plain in person," but "full of simplicity and goodness," and of a "most lovable" character. Like her husband she had come into the Society by convincement; and like him she had partaken in a large degree of the paternal sympathy and oversight of Joseph Wood. She had been a Methodist, and was one of the first who joined with Friends at Barnsley in the awakening which took place there in the beginning of the century.
John Yeardley and his wife inhabited, on their marriage, a small house at the southern extremity of the town, whither very soon afterwards was transferred the afternoon meeting which it was customary to hold at some Friend's house in Barnsley. The morning meeting continued to be held at. Burton until 1816, when a new meeting-house was built in the town.
They had only one child, a son, who died in infancy.
John Yeardley commenced his Diary in 1811; and this valuable record of his religious experience, and of his travels in the service of the Gospel, was maintained with more or less regularity to the end of his life. The motive which induced him to adopt this practice is given in the following lines, with which the manuscript commences:—
It may seem a little strange that I should, in my present situation, attempt to keep any memorandums of the following kind; but feeling desirous simply to pen down a few broken remarks as they may at times occur to my mind, I apprehend no great harm can arise; and if, by causing a closer scrutiny into my future stepping along, they should in any degree exercise my mind to spiritual improvement, the intended purpose will be fully answered.
The first entry is dated the 6th of the Tenth Month, 1811:—
First-day.—Have been sweetly refreshed at our little meeting this morning. I have long felt assured that Time calls for greater diligence in me than has hitherto been rendered. And when I consider the innumerable favors and privileges which I enjoy at the hands of Divine Providence, beyond many of my fellow-creatures, and the few returns of gratitude I am making, it raises in me an inexpressible desire that my few remaining days may be dedicated, in humble obedience, to Him whose great and noble cause I am professing to promote.
How unstable is human nature! On sitting down in meeting this evening I got into a state of unwatchfulness, which continued so long as to deprive me of the refreshment my poor mind so often stands in need of.
In the entries which follow, the progress of the inward work and the preparation for future service are very evident:—
13th.—Went to our morning gathering in a low frame of mind, and was made afresh to believe that were we more concerned to dwell nearer the pure principle of Truth when out of meetings, we should not find such difficult access when thus collected, but each one would be encouraged to come under the precious influence of that baptizing power which would cement and refresh our spirits together. O then, I firmly believe, our Heavenly Father would in an eminent manner condescend to crown our assemblies with the overshadowing of his love, and enable us not only to roll away the stone, but to draw living water as out of the wells of salvation.
17th.—"Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me," was a language which secretly passed my mind in meeting this morning; and though inwardly poor as I am, yet I dare not but acknowledge it a privilege to be favored even with a good desire.
24th.—Was a little refreshed at our morning gathering, my spirit being exercised under a concern that I might not rest satisfied with anything short of living experience; and I felt comforted with a lively hope that He whom my soul loveth will not fail to manifest his divine regard to one who is sincerely desirous to become acquainted with his ways. O, how shall I render sufficient thankfulness for such a favor, thus to be made once more sweetly to partake of the brook by the way.
Thought the evening sitting rather dull, though the ministry of T. S. was lively, which is a confirming proof that however favored we may be at certain seasons, yet if at any time we suffer our attention to be diverted from the real object, it frustrates the design of Him who I believe intends that we should wait together to renew our strength.
In the Eleventh Month Henry Hull, from the United Slates, accompanied by John Hull of Uxbridge, visited Burton, and had good service their, both amongst Friends and with the public. They lodged at John Yeardley's, and, in describing their labors and the pleasure he derived from their society, he records his thankfulness at being placed in a situation in life such as afforded him the opportunity of entertaining the Lord's servants.
His disposition was lively and strongly inclined to humor, and he early felt the necessity of having this natural trait of character subjected to the rule of heavenly wisdom. Under date 27th of the Eleventh Month he says:—
I feel a little compunction for having these few days past given way too much to the lightness of my disposition, and not being sufficiently concerned to seek after that stability and serious reflection which never fails to improve the mind.
On the 26th of the Twelfth Month he records a state of spiritual poverty.
Such, he says, has been the instability of my mind, that my "Beloved is unto me as a fountain sealed." But, he adds, I feel a little tendered this evening, on reading over a few comfortable expressions in a letter from my friend, Joseph Wood.
This condition of mind continued for some months, when he thus breaks forth:—
3 mo. 8, 1812.—How pleasant it is once more to be favored with a few drops of living water from the springs of that well which my soul has had for many weeks past to languish after, and which I trust has been wisely withheld in order to show me that, although it is our indispensable duty to persevere in digging for it, yet it is only in His own time that we are permitted to drink thereof.
His just appreciation of the nature of meetings held for the discipline of the Church, and of the spirit in which they are to be conducted, is shown in an early part of the Diary.
3 mo. 15.—Was at our Preparative Meeting. The queries having to be answered, I was led into deep thoughtfulness respecting the same, and inwardly solicited that the Father of mercies would lend his divine aid, in the performance of such important duties; which I have reason to believe was in some measure answered, for they were gone through with a degree of ease and comfort to my own mind. May I ever keep in remembrance the testimonies of his love which are so often manifested!
8 mo. 17.—Meeting for discipline at Burton. The forepart was conducted, I think, to edification; but in the latter, one subject occupied much time unnecessarily, and did not conclude to general satisfaction. When some whose spirits are not well seasoned, speak to circumstances which they may not have sufficiently considered, it sometimes does more harm than they may at first apprehend.
The entries in the Diary at this time shew many alternations of discouragement and comfort, and of that deep searching of his own heart from which he seldom shrank, and which is the only way to the liberty and peace of the soul.
4 mo. 12.—In contemplating the gracious dealings of the Almighty with me from time to time, I have been led to query, Is it not that I might, by patiently submitting to the turnings and overturnings of his most holy hand, become fashioned to show forth his praise? But alas! where are the fruits? Is not the work rather marring as on the wheel; can I, in sincerity say, I am the clay, Thou art the potter? I feel weary of my own negligence; for it seems as if the day with me was advancing faster than the work, I fear lest I should be cast off for want of giving greater diligence to make my calling sure. O may he who is perfect in wisdom strengthen the feeble desire which remains, and melt my stubborn will into perfect obedience by the operation of his pure spirit.
In the next memoranda which we shall transcribe we see when and how his mind was imbued with the love of Scriptural inquiry and illustration. Two or three good books well read and digested in younger life often form the thinking habits of the man, and supply no small part of the substance, or at any rate the nucleus, of his knowledge. This shows the vast importance of a wise choice of authors, at the time when the mind is the most susceptible of impressions, and the most capable of appropriating the food which is presented to it. Those who knew John Yeardley will recognise the intimate connexion between these early studies and the character of his future life and ministry. If any should think his language on this or kindred subjects marked by excessive caution, they must bear in mind the comparative by unintellectual circle in which he moved.
I trust, he writes, under date of 4 mo. 28, a few of my leisure hours for two or three weeks past have been spent profitably in perusing some of A. Clarke's Notes on the Book of Genesis; and although I am fully aware that the greatest caution is necessary, when these learned men undertake to exercise their skill on the sacred text, yet I am of opinion, if used with prudence and a right spirit attended to, it may tend considerably to illustrate particular passages. I think this pious man has not only shown his profound knowledge of the learned languages, but some of his observations are so pertinent and so judiciously made, as may have a tendency to produce spiritual reflection in the mind of the reader.
5 mo. 24.—Having read with some attention Fleury's "Manners of the Israelites," by A. Clarke, I am convinced that even a slight knowledge of those ancient customs tends to facilitate the proper study of the sacred writings; for many of the metaphors so beautifully made use of by the prophets and apostles, and even our dear Redeemer himself, to convey a spiritual meaning, seem to have had an evident allusion to the antique manners and customs which I find explained in this little volume.
The commotions referred to in the reflections which follow, were no doubt the great European war which was then raging. Buonaparte, it may be remembered, was at that time making preparation for his Russian campaign, and a universal alarm prevailed as to the final result of his insatiable lust of conquest.
5 mo. 7.—In viewing the commotions of the times, it has induced me seriously to consider the great importance of procuring, as far as ability may be afforded, a free access to the never-failing source of our help; and in a little contemplating this subject I have been comforted in a hope that, if we only abide stedfast and immovable, He whom the waves of the sea obeyed will in his own time speak peace to the minds of his tossed ones, and a calm will ensue.
The perusal of Elizabeth Smith's "Fragments" occasions him to remark how profitable it is to read the writings of others; but he wisely adds:—
I am often desirous not to rest satisfied with a bare perusal of these, believing they are only advantageous to us so far as they stimulate to a closer attention to that inward gift, which alone can enable us to witness the same experience. It is often a query with me, how am I spending this precious time, which passes so swiftly away never to return? and, in order to answer this query aright, how desirable it is to dwell with thee, sweet solitude! to turn inward, to examine and correct the defects of our own disordered minds; how delightful it is to walk alone and contemplate the beautiful scenes of nature. Yet in these retired moments, when viewing the works of a divine hand springing up to answer the great end for which they were created, I am often deeply perplexed with a distressing fear lest I should not be found coming forward faithfully to answer the end of Him who has created man for the purpose of his own glory.
The meetings for the discipline of the Society were often times of spiritual refreshment to him.
6 mo. 23.—I left home to attend our Quarterly Meeting at York. The meetings for business were generally satisfactory; on re-examining the answers to the queries, divers very weighty remarks were made. I thought the two meetings for worship favored seasons; and, although I left home with reluctance, I cannot but rejoice at having given up a little time to be made a partaker of the overflowing of that precious influence which, I trust, made glad the hearts of many present.
The extracts which follow develope still further the progress of his inner life, and the secret preparation of the future preacher of the Gospel and overseer of the flock of Christ.
6 mo. 29.—A deep-searching time at meeting yesterday, wherein I was given to see a little of my own unworthiness The secret breathings of my spirit were to the Father and fountain of life, that he might be pleased more and more to redeem me from this corrupted state of human nature, and draw me by the powerful cords of his love into a nearer union with the pure spirit of the Gospel.
7 mo. 6.—Thought an awful solemnity was the covering of our small gathering yesterday morning, under which I felt truly thankful to the Dispenser of every gift; and was enabled to crave his assistance to maintain the watch with greater diligence, and pursue the ways of peace with alacrity of soul.
29th and 30th.—The General Meeting at Ackworth was large, and I thought very satisfactory through all its different sittings. The meeting for worship was a remarkable time; the pure spring of gospel ministry seemed to flow, as from vessel to vessel, until it rose into such dominion as to declare the gracious presence of Him who is ever worthy to be honored and adored for thus condescending to own us on such important occasions. Iron is said to sharpen iron; and I thought it was a little the case with me at this season, feeling very desirous to enjoy that within myself which I so much admire in others.
8 mo. 13.—Many days have I gone mourning on my way, for what cause I know not; but if I can only abide in patience till the day break and the shadows flee away, then I trust the King of righteousness will again appear.
25th.—In contemplating a little the character of that good man, Nehemiah, I cannot but think it worthy our strictest imitation, when we consider the heartfelt concern he manifested for the welfare of his people, in saying, "Come and let us build up the wall of Jerusalem, that we be no more a reproach." This proved him to be a man of a noble spirit and a disinterested mind, and, I say, worthy our strictest imitation; for to what nobler purpose can we dedicate our time than in endeavoring to build up the broken places which are made in the walls of our Zion?
In the following entry is shown a just insight into the nature of man, and a discernment of the uses and limits of human knowledge. Although John Yeardley's talents were not brilliant, and his opportunities were scanty, he possessed that intellectual thirst which cannot be slaked but at the fountain of knowledge. At the same time he was sensitively alive to the necessity of having all his pursuits, of whatever kind, kept within the golden measure of the Spirit of Truth.
11 mo. 11.—In taking a view of some of the temporal objects to which my attention has of late been more particularly turned, with a desire to enlarge my ideas and improve my understanding in some of the more useful and extended branches of literature, it has excited in me a considerable degree of caution, lest thereby I should, in this my infant state of mind, too much exclude the operation of that pure in-speaking word which has undoubtedly a prior right to govern all my actions. But I have long been convinced that the active mind of man must have some object in pursuit to engage its attention when unemployed in the lawful concerns of life, otherwise it is apt to range at large in a boundless field of unprofitable thoughts and imaginations. I am aware that we may be seasonably employed in suitable conversation to mutual advantage, and I trust I am not altogether a stranger to the value of sweet retirement; but there is a certain something in every mind which renders a change in the exercise of our natural faculties indispensable, in order to make us happy in ourselves and useful members of society; and it is under these considerations that I am induced to apply a few of my leisure hours towards some degree of intellectual attainment, in the humble hope that I may be preserved in that path which will procure at the hands of a wise Director that approbation which I greatly desire should mark all my steps.
The next extract from the diary will find a response in the hearts of many who read these pages.
1813. 2 mo. 17.—Never, surely, was any poor creature so weary of his weakness! Almost in everything spiritual, and even useful, I have not only been as one forsaken, but it has seemed as though I was to be utterly cast off. When I have desired to feel after good, evil has never failed to present itself. O, when will He whose countenance has often made all within me glad, see meet to return and say, "It is enough!"
6 mo. 27.—The thoughts which he put into writing under this date seem to have been occasioned by entering into business on his own account.
Am now about to enter the busy scenes of life, which sinks me into the very depth of humility and fear, lest the concerns of an earthly nature should deprive me of my heavenly crown, which I have so often desired to prefer even to life itself. But O, should there remain any regard in the breast of the Father of mercies, for one who feels so unable to cope with the world, may he still be pleased to preserve me in his fear, and not only to take me under the shadow of his heavenly wing, but make me willing to abide under the guidance of his divine direction!
7 mo. 15.—"Cause me not to return to the house of Jonathan the scribe, lest I die there." These words of our weeping prophet have sensibly affected my heart this morning, under a prevailing desire that my gracious rather may not permit me to remain as in the prison-house of worldly affairs, lest I die my spiritual death there.
We shall see that he was not successful in business; and it may be that the disappointments he experienced in this way were in some sort an answer to these ardent prayers to be kept from the spirit of the world.
Under date 21st of the First Month, 1814, he writes:
I trust the few temporal disappointments I have met with of late have been conducive to my best interest, having had a tendency to turn my views from a too anxious pursuit after the things of time to a serious consideration of the very great importance of a more strict reliance on the never-failing arm of divine support, for the want of which I believe I have suffered unspeakable loss.
About this time he had frequently to mourn over the difficulty of fixing his mind in meetings for worship. He often complains of "wandering in the unprofitable fields of vain imagination;" but sometimes also he bears a joyful testimony to the Lord's power in enabling him to unite in spirit with the living worshippers.
The fear of man is one of the most universal of the besetments which try the faith of the Christian; and it may be encouraging to some to see on this point the confession of one whose natural character was that of a strong and independent mind.
2 mo. 6.—I am too apt to let in that slavish fear about men and things which render me unable to cope with the world, and even unfits me for properly seeking after the assistance of my Maker. O, may He who sees my weakness enable me to overcome it!
During the summer of this year, several parties of Friends travelling in the work of the ministry came to Burton; Sarah Lamley of Tredington, with Ann Fairbank of Sheffield; Ann Burgess (afterwards Ann Jones); Elizabeth Coggeshall from New York, with Mary Jefferys of Melksham; and John Kirkham of Earl's Colne. The labors of these Friends are recorded by John Yeardley with delight and thankfulness. He accompanied John Kirkham to Sheffield, where they found Stephen Grellett.
How sweet it is, he remarks, to enjoy the company of these dedicated servants, whom their great Master seems to be sending to and fro to spread righteousness in the earth! I often think it has a tendency to help one a little on the way towards the Land of Promise. When I consider these favors, I am led to covet that a double portion of the spirit of the Elijahs may so rest on the Elishas that others may also be raised to fill up the honorable situations of those worthies, when they shall be removed from works to rewards.
But of all the above-named, the visit of Sarah Lamley and Ann Fairbank was for him by far the most memorable, and was the means of developing that precious gift of ministry to which he had been called from his youth. The extracts from his Diary which are given below speak of this visit, and most instructively describe the time and manner in which he first received his gift, as well as the weight which the approaching exercise of it brought upon his mind.
5 mo. 27.—Sarah Lamley and Ann Fairbank lodged six nights with us, and I accompanied them to Dirtcar and Wakefield. I can acknowledge their innocent and agreeable company has been truly profitable to me, and has united me very closely to their spirits in tender sympathy.
7 mo. 30.—Such a load of exercise prevails over my spirit, that it requires some extra exertion to support it with my usual cheerfulness of countenance. If I go into company, I find no satisfaction; for I cannot appear pleasant in the society of my friends, feeling it irksome to discourse even on matters of common conversation. From the feelings which have attended my mind, it is evident that the cloud is at present resting on the tabernacle, and I never saw more need for me to abide in my tent. And O that patience may have its perfect work! for there is much to be done in the vineyard of my own heart, before I can come to that state of usefulness which I believe the Great [Husbandman] designs for me. The secret language of my heart is, May his hand not spare nor his eye pity until he has subdued all in me which obstructs the progress of his divine work!
31st.—I trust I was once more favored, in meeting this morning, to put up my secret petition in humble sincerity to the Shepherd of Israel, that he would be graciously pleased to help my infirmities. In the afternoon meeting I thought the petition was measurably answered; for towards the conclusion the rays of divine light so overshadowed my mind as to induce a belief that I should be assisted to overcome that spirit of opposition which has too long existed to the detriment of my best interests, if there was only a willingness to abide under the forming hand.
8 mo. 1.—I now feel freedom to give a short account how it was with me under this concern from its commencement down to the present time.
I remember well, about the year 1804, when in my father's house at Blacker, once being in my chamber, in a very serious, thoughtful frame of mind, receiving an impression that if ever I came to receive the truth which I was then convinced of, to my everlasting benefit, I should have publicly to declare of the gracious dealings of Divine Goodness to my soul. The impression passed away with this remark deeply imprinted in my mind, that if ever a like concern should come to be matured, I should date the first intimation of it from this time. I was apt to view it for a long, time as the mere workings of the enemy on my mind, and when it has come before my view, I have often secretly said, "Get thee behind me, I will not be tempted with such a thing." By these means I put it from me, as it were, by force, not thinking it worthy of notice and often praying to be delivered from such a gross delusion. At other times it would come with such, weight on my spirit, that I could not avoid shedding tears, and acknowledging the power which accompanied the revival of so important a matter; and was led to query, If there is no real intention of a heavenly nature, why am I thus harassed? and O the fervent sincerity in which I desired that the right thing might have place, and if it was wrong, that I might be enabled to find a release in His time who had appointed the conflict! And I do believe, could I then have come at a perfect resignation to the divine will, I might have been brought forward in a way which would have afforded permanent relief to my own mind; but such was my dislike to the work, that I suffered myself to be lulled into a state of unbelief as to the rectitude of the concern.
Thus many outward circumstances transpired, and some years passed over, with my only viewing the matter at a distance, until He who first laid the concern upon me was pleased to bring it more clearly home to me, and seemed at times to engage his servants, both in public and private, to speak very clearly to my condition. And although I had a concurring testimony in my own mind to their declarations, yet I had always an excuse to flee unto by secretly saying, It may be intended for some one else; until the Most High was graciously pleased, by the services of his sincere handmaids, Sarah Lamley and Ann Fairbank, in their family visits to Friends of Barnsley, as mentioned last Fifth Month, to speak so clearly to my situation in their private opportunity with us, as to leave no room for excuse; but I was forced to acknowledge, Thou art the man. Indeed, Sarah Lamley was led in such an extraordinary manner, that I had no doubt at all but that she was favored with a clear and fall sense of my state. She began by enumerating the many fears which attended the apostles in their various situations; how that Satan had desired to have some of them that he might sift them as wheat in a sieve; "but," added she, "I have prayed for thee, Peter, that thy faith fail not, and when thou art converted strengthen thy brethren." And how it was with Moses when the Almighty appeared to him in a flame of fire in the bush, and that it was not until the Most High had condescended to answer all Moses' excuses that he was angry with him, and even then he condescended to let him have Aaron, his brother, to go with him for a spokesman. Also how it was with Peter when the threefold charge was given him to feed the lambs and the sheep. "It is not enough," said she, "to acknowledge that we love the Lord, but there must be a manifesting of our love by doing whatsoever he may command." Methinks I still hear her voice, saying, "And O that there may not be a pleading of excuses, Moses-like!" Thus was this valuable servant enabled to speak to my comfort and encouragement, which I trust I shall ever remember to advantage; but O that I may be resigned to wait the appointed time in watchful humility, patience, and fear! for I find there is a danger of seeking too much after outward confirmations, and not having the attention sufficiently fixed on the great Minister of ministers, who alone is both able and willing to direct the poor mind in this most important concern, and in his own time to say, "Arise, shine; for thy light is come."
12 mo. 22.—My poor mind has been so much enveloped in clouds of thick darkness for months past, that I have sometimes been ready to conclude I shall never live to see brighter days. Should even this be the case I humbly hope ever to be preserved from accusing the just Judge of the earth of having dealt hardly with me, but acknowledge to the last that he has in mercy favored me abundantly with a portion of that light which is said to shine brighter and brighter unto the perfect day.
We shall leave for the next chapter the relation of his first offerings in the ministry, and conclude this with a striking passage which we find in the Diary for this year.
John Yeardley was all his life very fond of the occupations of the garden. A small piece of ground was attached to his house at Barnsley, which he cultivated, and from which he was sometimes able to gather spiritual as well as natural fruit.
Under date of the 22nd of the Seventh Month, he writes:—
A very sublime idea came suddenly over my mind when in the garden this evening. It was introduced as I plucked a strawberry from a border on which I had bestowed much cultivation before it would produce anything; but now, thought I, this is a little like reaping the fruit of my labor. As I thus ruminated on the produce of the strawberry-bank, I was struck with the thought of endless felicity, and the sweet reward it would produce for all our toils here below. My mind was instantly opened to such a glorious scene of divine good that I felt a resignation of heart to give up all for the enjoyment of [such a foretaste] of endless felicity.
FROM HIS ENTRANCE ON THE MINISTRY IN 1815, TO HIS COMMISSION TO RESIDE IN GERMANY IN 1820.
1815.—After the long season of depression through which John Yeardley passed, as described in the last chapter, the new year of 1815 dawned with brightness upon his mind. He now at length saw his spiritual bonds loosed; and the extracts which follow describe his first offerings in the ministry in a simple and affecting manner.
1 mo. 5.—The subject of the prophet's going down to the potter's house opened so clearly on my mind in meeting this morning that I thought I could almost have publicly declared it; but not feeling that weight and certainty which I had apprehended should accompany the performance of such an important act, I was afraid of imparting that to others which might be intended only for my own instruction; and so it has ended for the present. But I am thankful in hoping that I am come a little nearer to that state of resignation which was so beautifully exemplified by our great Pattern of all good, who when He desired the bitter cup might pass from Him, nevertheless added, "Not my will, but thine be done." And if I am at all acquainted with my inward feelings, I trust I can in some degree of sincerity say that my heart desires to rejoice more in the progress of this state of happy resignation, than at the increase of corn, wine, or oil.
He first opened his mouth in religious testimony in the First Month of this year. The occurrence seems to have taken place in his own family; it yielded him a "precious sense of the Divine Presence." He began to preach in public a few months later, but not without another struggle against the heavenly impulse.
The friendship which Joseph Wood entertained for John Yeardley strengthened with revolving years. When he visited Barnsley, he was accustomed to lodge at his house; and writing to him in the year 1811, about a public meeting which he felt concerned to hold, he says, "I can with freedom write to thee, feeling that unity with thy spirit which preserves us near and dear to each other, and in which freedom runs."
In the Fourth Month of this year, when Joseph Wood received a certificate to visit some of the midland counties, J.Y. felt desirous "of setting him a little on his way."
On the 14th, he says, we went to Woodhouse, where we had a meeting, and my friend was enabled to speak very closely to the states of many present. When in the meeting, I felt a very weighty exercise to attend my mind with an intimation publicly to express it. But this exposure I dared not yield to, under an apprehension that it might be wrong in me, considering the occasion on which I had come out; but truly I left the place under a burden which I was scarcely able to bear.
It was on the 20th of the Fourth Month that he began to speak in public as a minister of the Gospel. He thus records the event:—
I felt myself in such a resigned frame of mind in our little week-day meeting, that I could not doubt the time was fully come for me to be relieved from that state of unspeakable oppression which my poor mind had been held in for so many years past. Soon after I took my seat, my mind became unusually calm, and the presence of the Most High seemed so to abound in my heart and spread over the meeting, that after some inward conflict I was unavoidably constrained publicly to express it, in nearly the following words: "I think I have so sensibly felt the precious influence of divine love to overshadow our little gathering, that I have been ready to say, It is good for us to be here; or I might rather say, It is good for us to feel ourselves under the precious influence of that protecting power which can alone preserve us from the snares of death." This first [public] act of submission to the divine will was done with as much stability of mind and body as I was capable of; and I thought the Friends present seemed sensible of my situation and sympathized with me under the exercise. I trust the sweet peace which I afterwards felt was a seal to my belief that I had been favored with divine compassion and approbation in the needful time.
In the Fifth Month John Yeardley attended for the first time the Yearly Meeting in London. He describes the business as very various and instructive, but bewails his own condition as that of "one starving in the midst of every good thing."
It seemed at times, he says, as though Satan himself was let loose upon me, and permitted to try my faith and patience to the utmost; but I hope the conflict had its use in teaching me to know that it is not by might, nor by power, but by the Lord's Spirit, that we are enabled to prevail.
This was the commencement of another season of spiritual poverty. In reading a few of his memoranda during this time, many a Christian traveller may see his own mourning countenance reflected as in a glass.
11 mo. 8.—I have for a long time felt so depressed in spirit, and so inwardly stripped of every appearance of good, that I have often secretly had to say with tried Job, "O that I were as in months past, as in the days when God preserved me!"
16th.—Death and darkness are still the covering of my poor mind, and I am ashamed to acknowledge that I have for months past sat meeting after meeting a victim to the baneful consequences of wandering thoughts, scarcely being able to recollect myself so much as to ask excuse of Him who sees in secret. In these times of deepest desertion I am selfish enough to feel a longing desire for a ray of light or a smile from the countenance of Him, under whose banner I have many times sat with the greatest delight in days that are past.
O, how hard it is to regain divine favor when once sacrificed through the sorrowful act of disobedience! O may I sit as in dust and ashes, and, with the noble resignation and spirit of a true, dedicated follower, say, I will patiently hear the indignation of the Lord, because I have sinned against him!
Nevertheless, even in his times of deepest humiliation, moments of heavenly comfort were interspersed.
11 mo. 23.—A more improved meeting than I had reason to hope from cross occurrences, which are too apt to ruffle the unstable mind. Daring our silent sitting together, I was comforted in contemplating the many encouraging passages we have left on sacred record; two of which, spoken by one of large experience, were particularly solacing to my exercised feelings: "Many are the afflictions of the righteous, but the Lord delivereth him out of them all;" and "The young lions do lack and suffer hunger, but they that seek the Lord shall not want any good thing." O, thought I, if we could only procure Him on our side who has the thoughts of all men in his keeping, what should we have to fear! We should then be brought to acknowledge that it behooves a Christian traveller to crave the assistance of Him who can enable us to suffer with becoming fortitude and resignation all the afflicting dispensations of life, rather than desire to be preserved from meeting them.
The hard mutter which is the subject of the next extract embodies a difficulty that has perplexed many. It is always encouraging to find companionship in doubts and trials, and perhaps the consideration which pacified the mind of John Yeardley may be helpful to some who are tried in the same way. The passage, no doubt, has reference to his own want of better success in business.
11 mo. 30.—When any circumstance in the common course of life, which has appeared to turn up in the direction of Divine Providence, has not answered my expectation, or on deliberate consideration it has not seemed prudent for me to step into it, I have sometimes felt greatly discouraged, and been ready to conclude, How could this thing be ordered under the direction of best wisdom! But let me ever remember, He who has his way in the whirlwind knows what is best for us; and were it not for these incitements to an exercise of feeling, the mind would be apt to lie dormant, and not be preserved alive in a proper state to prove all things and hold fast that which is best.
About the end of the year he was obliged to spend several days in London on business. The course of his affairs seems to have been uneven, and the great city was probably uncongenial to his retired habits. He says:—
12 mo. 15.—I do not remember that my feelings were ever more discouraging, both inwardly and outwardly. When the mind is ruffled about the things of time, it is hard work to make any progress towards the land of peace. I try to get to the well of water; but truly it may be said I have nothing to draw with.
Yet even under these circumstances his daily religious practices—those which no competitor for the meed of peace and the crown of glory can dispense with—were not without avail.
16th.—In reading and retirement before I left my room, I received a little hope that I should be preserved in a good degree of patience through the cross occurrences of the day, which was measurably the case.
The life of a Christian is very much the history of outward and inward trials. How happy it is when these serve only to deepen his experience! The nature of John Yeardley's spiritual trials has been fully shown: his temporal crosses have also been glanced at; they consisted mainly of want of success in business, in which, indeed, he was little fitted to excel, under the keen competition of modern times.
1816. 1 mo. 4.—A new year has commenced, but the old afflictions are still continued, both inwardly and outwardly; for even in temporal affairs disappointments rage high. But O what a privilege to sink down to the anchor-hope of divine support! This is what I can feelingly acknowledge this evening to be as a brook by the way to refresh my poor and long-distressed mind. O, how ardently do I desire that this season of adversity may be sanctified to me for everlasting good, and prove the means of slaying that will in me, which has too long been opposed to the will of Him who paid the ransom for my soul with nothing less than the price of his own precious blood.
The difficulty of making his way in the commercial world increased until the risk of "failure began to stare him in the face." The fear of such a result sank him exceedingly low; but through all he was permitted to keep his footing upon the rock, and to behold a spiritual blessing under the guise of temporal adversity.
7th.—Surely it is a mark of divine favor to feel the supporting hand of my heavenly Father underneath, to bear up my drooping spirits in this time of adversity. I think I was never more sensible of his powerful arm being made bare for my deliverance; and yet, unaccountable to tell, I am almost afraid to trust in him. O, my soul, wherefore dost thou doubt, when thou feelest the glorious presence of thy Redeemer's countenance to shine upon thee?
In the meeting this morning, he continues, my mind was profitably exercised in contemplating the following subject. When our dear Lord was about to perform the miracle of feeding the multitude, he commanded them to sit down upon the grass. They were undoubtedly hungry, and this might create in them too great an anxiety to be satisfied in their own time; but that all things might be done in order, and without interruption, they were commanded to sit down and wait the disposal of their food from the bountiful hand of their great Master. In looking at the subject, I thought it a lively representation of the state of mind we ought to labor after, when favored to feel hunger and thirst after righteousness; not frustrating the design of the Most High by being too anxious to be filled in our own will and way, but patiently waiting the time of Him who giveth to all their meat in due season, and that which is most convenient for them. And what greater privilege could we desire than to be fed at the Lord's table?
9th.—As my precious wife and I were consoling each other this evening, she remarked that the dispensation we were now suffering under was probably in answer to our prayers. This brought strikingly to my remembrance a secret petition which I have frequently put up in the most fervent manner I have been capable of, when deeply lamenting my unsubjected will; I have even cried out aloud, "O make me willing; do, Lord, make me willing, make me willing!"
O then may I submit to the means, if for this end they are appointed, and resign my all, body, soul and spirit, into the hands of Him who gave them; and may I patiently endure the swelling of Jordan in a manner that will enable me to bring from the bottom, stones of everlasting memorial.
After this he was led for a while by the Good Shepherd into the green pastures and beside the still waters.
1st mo. 15.—Our Monthly Meeting at Wakefield, and a heavenly meeting it was.
29th.—I left home for a journey into the north on business. I had many precious seasons of retirement as I rode along, and I humbly trust my soul has been enabled to cultivate a more intimate acquaintance with her Beloved, in such a way as will not easily be erased from my remembrance.
Notwithstanding the deep and varied experience he had passed through, his unwillingness to expose himself as a preacher of the gospel was still strong, and sometimes obstructed the performance of his duty.
8 mo. 20.—Joseph Wood had a public meeting at Pilley. I felt something on my spirit to communicate to the people in the early part, but thinking the meeting was not sufficiently settled to receive it, I reasoned away the right time; another did not offer during the whole meeting for me to relieve my poor mind, so I brought my burden home with me, which indeed proved such as I really thought I should have sunk under.
The "severe stripes," as he terms it, which he received on this occasion at length produced a willing mind.
9 mo. 10.—I went with my dear wife to attend the burial of my cousin Joseph Watts at Woodhouse, and was at the meeting there on Fourth-day the 11th. It was largely attended by relations and friends. I felt so sensibly the danger that some present were in of trifling away the reproofs of conviction, that I could not forbear reviving the language which was proclaimed to the Prophet Jonah, when he had fled from the presence of the Lord and was fallen asleep in the ship, "What meanest thou, O sleeper, arise, call upon thy God." After commenting a little on the subject, I sat down under great solemnity which seemed to cover the meeting, and I can thankfully say the fruit of obedience was sweet to my taste.
12 mo. 1.—Went to meeting this morning with a fearful apprehension lest I should have to expose myself in that which is so contrary to my natural inclination. And so it proved; for I had not sat long, before I was made willing to express what rested weightily on my mind, and that was the case of Gideon, when the angel appeared to him under the oak as he threshed wheat. I commented a little on the subject, which afforded me great satisfaction and joy.
In the following entry, notwithstanding the tardy obedience which it records, we find his commission as one of the Lord's watchmen sealed upon his mind.
1817. 4 mo. 7. In meeting yesterday morning I was enabled publicly to relieve myself of a little matter which had been a burden on my mind for two or three meetings past, in which I had felt pretty smartly the rod which, is held over the head of the disobedient. In this instance, human nature seemed stubborn in a double degree, but after it was over I felt my peace flow as a river. Methinks I now hear this language proclaimed in the secret of my heart: I have made thee a watchman unto the house of Israel; therefore hear the word at my mouth, and give them warning from me. O what an important charge! May I duly consider the weight of it, and so watch over my own conduct, in thought, word and action, that I may not be pulling down with one hand that which I may be endeavoring to build up with the other. If I am to be an instrument in the hand of the Almighty, may he graciously condescend to prepare and sharpen the arrows he may see meet to shoot through the medium of his poor servant, so that they may sink deep, wound the hypocrite, and comfort the pure divine life in the hearts of his children.
A few weeks after this, John Yeardley attended a remarkable meeting held by Joseph Wood, in which they were made to sit in heavenly places in Christ Jesus.
4 mo. 29.—I attended another public meeting appointed by J.W. at Middletown, about ten miles from here. When I entered the town I felt very flat, and was ready to say, The fear of the Lord is not in this place; but after the meeting was gathered, I soon found what poor creatures we are, to judge of these things without waiting for best direction; for I think it was the most extraordinary time I ever knew. My friend bore a long and powerful testimony, to the tendering of many present. If I ever forget it while in my natural senses, I fear I shall be near losing my habitation the truth; for it was as if heaven opened, and the Most High poured down his blessed Spirit in an unbounded degree.
All this time his business affairs went on more and more adversely; and although he never failed punctually to meet all his money engagements, his want of success led in this year to a change of residence to Bentham.
Three months before he left Barnsley he writes:—
"Surely there is a vein for the silver, and a place for gold where they fine it." Pecuniary difficulties seem as if they would eat up every green thing; but I hope and trust that He who has often said, Peace, be still, will so regulate the heat of the furnace that I may be able to bear it with becoming patience, until there be nothing left in me but what resembles the pure gold fit for the Master's use. When I reflect on what my poor mind has passed through for more than two years past, I am convinced nothing short of that Arm which brought the Israelites through the Red Sea could have supported me. And O, should he ever loose my hands, that I may serve Him freely, may I never forget the many covenants made with Him who has so often heard and answered my prayer when in deep distress!
Through the assistance of some of his Barnsley friends, an offer was made to him of a situation in a flax-spinning mill at Bentham, which was then or had lately been the property of Charles Parker, a minister in the Society of Friends. He accepted the offer; and an extract from a letter to his wife, when on a journey, will show the motives under which he acted in this important step.
Hawkshead, 6 mo. 28, 1817.
MY VERY PRECIOUS DEAR,
When I wrote thee last, my time and feelings would not permit me to say much on our impending prospect of leaving Barnsley; but since then this very important subject has obtained my most serious and weighty consideration, and I am now free to communicate to thee my feelings, in order that thou mayest weigh them duly and compare them with thy own while we are separated. In the first place, in taking such a step, we must be reconciled to sacrifice our present comfortable home, our relations and friends—in short, all that may seem near and dear to us as to the outward. With respect to our spiritual prospect, I must confess, if any service is designed for me in the Church militant, I have sometimes apprehended it might be within the compass of our present Particular and Monthly Meetings; but should this be ordered otherwise in best wisdom, I trust I shall be relieved from the oppressive feeling, and in a short time see my way clear. On the other hand, if this change takes place, we have a probability of a comfortable living, and of being relieved from the extreme anxiety attendant on trade, when the whole responsibility rests on our own shoulders.
H.R. [one of the firm who had offered to employ him] seemed rather desirous for me to come. If we should agree, he wants me to go over directly to lay down plans for a few weavers' houses, and to make other arrangements to save time until we could remove.
I don't much like the situation of the house in the town, but I think another might be had if required. They have a nice one in Low Bentham, with a good garden attached, which would be at liberty in next Fifth Month; this would be a pleasant walk from the mill by the water-side all the way, which might be useful to my health after being confined in the warehouse, and much nearer to the meeting. It is a very small meeting indeed; there are only about two female Friends; but, should we be in the right place, the smallness of the number would not preclude our access to the divine spring.
I don't know how we shall come on with the thread trade, but it seems as if we were to be done out with both thread and linens, for there is scarcely any thing selling with me on this journey.
John Yeardley and his wife removed to Bentham in the Eighth Month, 1817. Bentham is a considerable village on the north-west border of Yorkshire, a few miles from the foot of Ingleborough; and it was at that time, according to the division of the county adopted by the Society of Friends, comprised in the Monthly Meeting of Settle.
After a season of deep spiritual poverty, during which he found no place for the exercise of his gift, John Yeardley began to speak in ministry in the little meeting to which he now belonged. On recording the circumstance he remarks:—
Thus does a gracious Father lead on his children step by step, baptizing them first into one state and then into another, in order to qualify them to drop a word in season for the comfort of others. Little did I think under the recent buffetings of the Enemy, that I should ever have had to open my mouth again in the way of declaring the everlasting goodness of a gracious Redeemer.
This memorandum was made a few days after the occurrence to which it refers, on his return from Settle Monthly Meeting, and is accompanied the record of a fresh unfolding to his mental eye of the need of gospel laborers, and of his own vocation to the work. In my return I had rather an unusual opening into the state of society, and the great want of laborers therein; and querying with myself, By whom shall the Lord send? I thought I felt the weight and power of the everlasting gospel upon me to preach, so that I was willing to say, Here am I; send me. O the importance of this language! May the same Spirit, which I trust raised it in my heart preserve me in every state to the end of time! Amen.
The extract which follows treats of the same subject,—the calling and exercise of the ministry. From this, and from the whole tenor of what has been extracted from the Diary, will be seen in what his ministry consisted, and what was the call and the power which was required in every successive exercise of it. May it serve as a word of caution and instruction to such as are disposed to reduce this heavenly gift to a mere effort of Christian good-will, or to consider the exercise of it as placed, whether in regard to time or subject, at the disposal of the minister. It will be observed how John Yeardley, in after life so abundant in word and doctrine, and so catholic in his ideas and sympathies, received his vocation as a divine gift immediately from above, and served in it an apprenticeship altogether spiritual, and apart from human learning or instruction.
10 mo. 26.—I have been very much instructed to-day in reading and reflecting on the 37th chapter of Ezekiel. When the prophet was asked if the dry bones could live, he was wise enough cautiously to answer, "O Lord God, thou knowest;" but when he was commanded to prophesy unto them, and say, "O ye dry bones, hear the word of the Lord," this was hard work, yet there was no conferring with flesh and blood. No reasoning from probabilities, nothing but an implicit faith and dependence on the divine power which was then upon him, could have enabled him to do it. O what an instructive lesson! When the poor instruments may feel so weak and the state of things so low, that there may not be the least probability of good arising, it is enough if they can only do the will of their great Master, and be enabled to say with the holy prophet, "I prophesied as the Lord commanded."
John Yeardley did not take his actual farewell of Barnsley until the end of the year. The reflections which he has recorded on leaving his home of so many years are very characteristic of the man:—
1818. 1 mo.—The Twelfth Month was spent at Barnsley in settling my affairs. Just before I left Bentham for that purpose, I was exceedingly unhappy at the idea of leaving my home, friends, &c. at Barnsley, and thought the parting feeling would be almost more than I could support. I was enabled to pray fervently to the Father of spirits, that he would be pleased to afford me strength to bear the change with Christian fortitude, and resign all to the disposal of his divine will; and thankful I am to relate, he so answered my request that I could leave the place to which I had been so long attached without a sigh. I have no doubt my removal, without consulting more of my friends, will appear strange to many. This I could never feel liberty to do; nor could I make any person living acquainted with my entire motive, but my precious wife. Whatever may be the opinion of others, this is a matter which rests between me and my God; and I often think it a favor that we are not accountable to man, who views too much the outside appearance, while He with whom we have to do looks at the heart.
After I had left Barnsley I went to Pontefract, to spend a few days with my friends there, where my poor lass had been for a week. I don't know that this time was unprofitably spent; but this I know—it never requires more care and watchfulness to be preserved in a seasonable frame of spirit than when the mind is set at ease to enjoy the company of a few intimate friends. We are too apt to get our thoughts dissipated, and thus our conversation becomes less seasoned with grace than it would be if the girdle of truth were kept tightly bound.
The next entry notices a remarkable interview which, he had with a woman Friend from America:—
15th.—This day a meeting has been held at the desire of Hannah Field from North America. I stepped down to see her at J. Stordy's; and in the few minutes we were together, before she took leave, she addressed herself to me in a very feeling manner. Although she was an entire stranger, she spoke so pointedly to my state of mind, and expressed the reward of faithfulness in such encouraging terms, that my feelings were in nowise able to resist the power which attended, but I was forced to acknowledge it as a nail fastened in a sure place.
Amongst some letters addressed by Elizabeth Yeardley to Susanna Harvey of Barnsley, is one in which mention is made of the visit of Hannah Field to Bentham; and, although the passage does not relate to the private interview described above, it is interesting as the reminiscence of a remarkable woman.
Bentham, 2 mo. 2, 1818.
We have been favored lately with a visit, unexpected but highly acceptable, from that great minister, Hannah Field, from America. She very much resembles Sarah Lamley; and when she began, it seemed as if one had been informing her of the state of the meeting. Her discourse began with the parable of the Ten Virgins, which was very beautiful but awful. Addressing herself again, she was very consolatory and affecting. She is tall and inclined to embonpoint; her age fifty-three.
In the Third Month of this year, the Monthly Meeting from which he had recently removed, that of Pontefract, recorded its approval of his ministry. It is not usual for meetings to do this in the case of one who has gone to reside elsewhere. The practice at that time was, in Yorkshire at least, in issuing a certificate of removal for a Friend who had begun to exercise the ministry and was still under probation, to notice the fact of his preaching, without pronouncing a judgment upon it. But when the usual document of removal was asked for at the Monthly Meeting, on behalf of John Yeardley, the meeting paused upon the words which noticed his offerings in the ministry, and solemnly resolved then and there to give him a full certificate as a minister in unity, and to "recommend him as such to the Quarterly Meeting." It happened that men and women Friends were together, the latter remaining whilst Joseph Wood laid a concern for some religious service before the joint meeting.
John Yeardley remarks on this act of his late Monthly Meeting:—
The concurrence of my friends with my small offerings cannot but feel comfortable and encouraging to a poor timorous creature like me; but the awful consideration of ranking among the servants who speak in the Lord's name humbles me to the dust. Surely those who are designed to minister before the Lord in his holy temple ought to bear the inscription of holiness upon them. The means by which this inscription, is obtained is so painful to flesh and blood that we are always ready to shrink from the operation. When we have borne the furnace heated to a certain degree, we are ready to fancy nothing but pure gold remains; until the refining hand sees meet to administer fresh [trials], then we are ready again to cry out, If it be thy will, let this cup pass by.
In the Sixth Month he joined Joseph Wood and William Midgley of Rochdale, in visiting some neighboring meetings. Of Kendal, which was one, he says it appeared to him "as if a remarkable revival was taking place in those parts;" and he concludes his short account of the journey with an acknowledgment of the satisfaction he felt in having given up to this little service.
Joseph Wood in his diary relates the same visit more at large. We have extracted the account of that portion of it in which John Yeardley was engaged, and believe the reader will find it interesting in several respects.
1818. 6 mo. 10.—Reached my beloved friend John Yeardley's house, in Bentham, about half-past eight o'clock, where we took up our quarters, and where we were favored with a renewed feeling of that love which had many times nearly united our spirits together.
On the 11th we spent this day very comfortably with these long-beloved and truly valuable friends, and in the evening Lad a public meeting appointed for Friends and people of other societies in their meeting-house in Bentham, about a mile and a half from their house. We walked thither, it being very pleasant through the fields. The meeting began at half-past six, and held two hours and a quarter. A pretty many who usually attend meetings, and a great concourse of people of other societies, attended, that the meeting-house, both above and below stairs, was well filled, and several were in the passage and in an adjoining room. A precious solemnity mercifully overshadowed us, whereby the minds of many were prepared to receive what the Lord was pleased instrumentally to communicate to the many different states; and O that they may individually profit thereby! for sure it was a time of favor unto many. I had a very long testimony to bear therein, first from Isaiah lviii. 1, 2. John Yeardley held a pretty long time next, from John ii. 4. I next, from 1 Cor. xiv. 19.
On the 12th we set out for Wray in Lancashire, five miles, John Yeardley being our guide, taking his wife and Ann Stordy along with him in a taxed cart. We had a very pleasant ride thither, down a beautiful valley, through which the river Wenning runs; had on our right hand a line view of Hornby Castle, now in part gone to decay. Got to Wray about half-past ten, and went to the meeting, which began at eleven o'clock. Twenty-three persons attended, one of whom appeared to be of another society. I sat therein for a considerable time in a very low state, and feeling a concern to stand up, I gave up, although in great weakness: different states opened and were spoken to in the authority of the gospel; and I had a long testimony to bear from Luke xv. 8. John Yeardley had a pretty long time next, from Lam. iii. 26; afterwards I was concerned in prayer, and felt truly thankful for the renewed mark of divine favor, and secretly rejoiced that my lot was cast here.