30: How Can We Expect the Almighty Will Prosper Us, So Long as We Will Continue in This Practice?

How can we expect the holy presence of our God to go with us, if we keep our fellow creatures in everlasting bondage: them and their wives and children?

Ezra 9:1 to the end: Much to the purpose. 

Nehemiah 13:3. Now it came to pass, when they had heard the law, that they separated from Israel all the mixed multitude.

2 Corinthians 6:15 to the end

Galatians 2:11–13.  Many eminent persons have been carried away with slave-keeping—preachers’ bad example and foul doctrine—and many more will I fear be so. O the ministry, the ministry is corrupted.

Job 3:1 to the end. If  Job complained so heavily, well may our poor slaves and their posterity. Some Friends have argued, “When a people were grown very wicked, the Almighty was pleased to give them up or suffer  them to be brought into captivity, bondage, or slavery, as he did own people and others.” Well, and what if it is so now? Shall we join with the heathen in covetousness, to be as the rod of his wrath? But I pray: what becomes of all rods when they are done with? Burned or someway destroyed. It may be well for us to consider it may be our own lot, sooner than we are aware.

Isaiah 62:1 to the end. This chapter likewise is very excellent if read with an enlightened mind. And that is the first thing to be prayed for, in order for a right understanding of what we read.

James  4:1–6. Then we shall know that war and fighting, killing and stealing, and receiving slaves and souls of men cometh of our lusts, which warreth in our members against the pure Holy Spirit of God in our hearts.

Philemon 3–18. O my beloved Friends, can a minister of the gospel of Jesus Christ—which is the power of God—keep slaves and not be an enemy to the holy cross of Christ? My Friends, I can freely call you that are born again and truly fear God and love his pure Truth more than all—of what nation or profession [sect] soever you are—you I do believe abhor this vile practice, much more to be found in it.

Dear Friends, I have been for many years—almost twenty before I ever saw Pennsylvania—closely exercised and sorely oppressed with a false and forward ministry, where slave-keeping is not permitted by [God’s] Law and has been I firmly believe a great means of bringing in and spreading the apostacy, and so continues to do by some that pretend to preach freely, as well or ill as by the barefaced hirelings [paid ministers] of our time, who cannot deny but that they make a trade of preaching for their bellies, but gross apostacy by the way.

I have had it in my mind, for a considerable time, to write something concerning a false anti-Christian ministry and true Christian ministry: fitted and sent forth by the Spirit of Truth itself in this our day, with the epistles of many worthy men of several persuasions on that subject. But fearing it will swell this volume too large, it is thought best to be reserved for another [printer’s] impression, with something concerning the kingdom of heaven or heavenly kingdom, what it is and where it is to be found, with the most ready, sure, and certain way to attain it, plainly described. For the sake of the sincere in heart who are traveling toward Zion with their faces thitherward, of all persuasions, whose present and eternal welfare, I wish and desire for—as for my own soul—of all colors and countries.                           

As no man or men can set forth in words spoken or written the great good, service, comfort, joy, strength, and consolation a true ministry sent from God has been—and is of—for the building up of the true church in God, in their most holy faith: So no men or angels, nor all the men in the world, can declare to the full, the great evil that a false ministry sent from the devil has been, and is of, for the building up of the false church in their sinful and unholy faith and practice.

I had it also much in my mind to write something concerning the lives of the primitive Christians mentioned by William Penn in his No Cross No Crown and Eusebius’s Ecclesiastical History, Thomas a Kempis’s Christian Pattern, Michael de Molinus’s Spiritual Guide, a book called The Apostolick Fathers, and some of the best of the philosophers and others which I have by me, which might be of service to them that live single lives especially. But it must be left till another time.

O the strict rules of temperance that was amongst those Quakers in Old-England! What persecution then was by plundering, robbing, and ruining of Families! What whipping and imprisoning: many hundreds at a time, some suffocated to death, some imprisoned during life, some banished, and other ways tortured.

Then about the same time in New England, how many of our first dear and true Friends, called Quakers, suffered there by plundering and ruining of families, whipping and banishing almost continually, with cutting of ears and hanging there was in that day, for the sake of the testimony of or for the pure, holy, unchangeable Truth and of good conscience, against all iniquity, cruelty, bloodshed, and inhumanity, which was acted there by them that had fled from Old-England to save their backs and their purses, according to the account in a book writ by George Bishop, called New-England Judged.

Much more might be writ concerning these and such like things, which might fill many large volumes in folio. But this is not like slave-keeping: for those were dispatched or set at liberty, and some crime or cause pretended. But these for no fault so much as pretended, but only devilish covetousness in the stealers and receivers. And then by a lingering martyrdom from one twenty years to another, some above-ground and some under-ground in caves and dens or mines are murdered by working hard, and starving, whipping, racking, hanging, burning, scalding, roasting, and other hellish torments very sorrowful to consider. O when will there be an end of these things? Seeing it now going on with main strength by almost all parties, as well as by some of those that pretend to the most strict, self-denying doctrine in the world: that is so full of mercy, compassion, forgiveness to the very worst of enemies, tenderness, meekness, mildness, sweetness of love, and pity to all creatures of all kinds. The merciful man is merciful to his beastand yet some of these pretenders to this purity can join with these men-killers and stealers for gain—which is hard to write, but it is true.

But yet I do know there is a faithful remnant amongst the people called Quakers in America, that are zealous against this and all other iniquity, to whom my soul is nearly united in Spirit, blessed be the Lord my God, for so great a favor for evermore. And I believe some of other [religious] professions also, whom I dearly love. And I have some hope the number of all sorts that truly fear God and love his Truth at heart will increase, which I should rejoice to hear and see, although things seem to look dark at present.                          

Abington, the 3rd of the Third Month [May] 1736, between 3 and 4 this morning:

It was again revived in my mind, the practice of slave-keeping, and thus to query:

Whether it is not as wicked and sinful a practice to keep and trade in slaves as to commit the following evils and filthy abominations which are now in custom I suppose by Jew and Gentile, to whom our brave slave-keepers allude, Abraham and the Law? That is to say: keeping many wives and harlots or concubines; going to and making use of harlots when they please, and mankind too; and many other things mentioned in the Old Testament, and other histories, and by Peter Charron in his Book of Wisdom, page 324.

The 15th of the First Month, 1736, 7 [15th March 1737]:

John Milton wrote a treatise concerning The Likeliest Means to Remove Hirelings out of the Churchwhich I gave to King George I and to the present King [George II] and Queen [Caroline], that they might see what a company of destructive vermin they had about them. And I think there is as much need now to keep such as are of the same spirit out of the church, or it is in great danger, in the opinion of some seeing, worthy Friends, who can see beyond profession, formality, or worldly interest.

That spirit has something in view: the good of the belly, a rich wife or husband, carrying on a good trade, or to be exalted and to get or keep up a strong party for some design base enough. And under this cloak of deceit: accuse others of seeking a party.

Now when this spirit goes forth with authority from the outward church, then our Meetings are or may be sure to be grievously pestered with noise if not nonsense. It seems as if some of our ministers (I was going to say many) have forgot the great benefit of silent meetings [for worship]—if ever they rightly knew it—that they are so restless in them, and must be hammering and hammering. The noise of the workman’s tool was not to be heard in building the outward temple, and much less the inward, which is the work of God himself. Oh that the Lord would be pleased to put a hook into the nose of this leviathan!

But if the words be never so found and orthodox, without Life they are but as chaff. And what is the chaff to the wheat? Why truly, Friends, you know the chaff is for the beasts, but the blessed wheat, with which our heavenly Father feeds his babes, is for the children of the kingdom, New Jerusalem, the church of the living God, his house.

But what said blessed Jesus to them that went or go without him? He that is not with me is against me, and he that gathereth not with me, scattereth abroad. Let his or her words be ever so excellent, as if he had said.

Many worthy Friends have been burdened with this scattering spirit for many years, especially its profaning if not blaspheming the sacred Name in prayer.

When our meetings on First-Days [Sundays] or others are a little settled in [worshipful, centering] silence and the children in the kingdom in their heavenly places and their Father begins to feed them, up stands maybe a cracked trumpet with an uncertain sound. Or peradventure an old, broken cistern with a little thick muddy stinking water at bottom, kept in for the meeting, and there thrown out among the children, when in Truth it is hardly fit for swine. Nay, I think I may venture to say the very swine do not like it, it is so bad. Now if such filthy stuff be countenanced, encouraged, and commended by our elders and ministers—some of them—what condition is the church in, which should be without spot or wrinkle? I leave it to the wise in heart to judge, to such ministers and elders as rule well and are worthy of double honor. So says Benjamin Lay.