01: The Preface

Impartial Reader,

These things following are so far from offending or grieving my very dear, true, and tender Friends, called Quakers, who love the Truth more then all, that it is by their request and desire that they are made public.  For I can say in the Truth before the Lord, that I love them in and for the Truth’s sake, and covet their sweet unity and pure fellowship in the gospel, more than my natural life and all things in the world:  without it or them, my record is in heaven.

I say for the Truth and Friends’ sake: these things are exposed, and I myself likewise, although not without some fear and trembling, for fear I should hurt Truth’s cause, which is God’s cause, I being and seeing myself so very unfit almost every way as a man.  Yet I can truly say as a Christian I believed it my duty, but made not haste, for the Lord my good God the Truth knows that I have prayed unto him earnestly many days and nights with great concern of mind that he would be pleased to raise up and concern some worthy Friend or other of more repute and esteem amongst men.  For I know myself to be so very mean and contemptible in the sight of menalmost in every respectso that I might and do much question the event, but shall leave that to the Lord to whom faithfulness and obedience is required, and no true peace without it.  

For I have found long ago the saying of Truth verified: He that loves anything more than me is not worthy of me (Matthew 10:37).  I have often thought of Moses’s prayer and Gideon’s request when the Lord was about to send them to deliver his people from captivity, and many other worthy menay, and women toowhich are mentioned in Holy Writ, and many thousands more no doubt, which we have no account of there; for it is believed we have but a very small part of what has been writtenand yet full enough, if we will but be faithful.  My dear, tender, and well beloved Friends, I beg, I pray, and beseech us: let us be more faithful I entreat in bowels of love, let us be faithful, let us be faithful to God in all things; and then I know blessed be his pure name, which is the Truth, that when the scourge shall come, he will secure us in life or in death; and that will be enough for us.  So be it, saith my soul, and is in humble request.

Benjamin Lay

Abington, Philadelphia County, in Pennsylvania
The 17th of Ninth Month [November] 1736

Editorial note on Quaker dates:

Up to and including 1751, the Julian calendar was used in England, Wales, Ireland, and the British colonies. In these places the year officially began on 25th March. For example: 24th March 1750 was followed by 25th March 1751. In 1752 the law changed: the year 1751 began on 25th March 1751 and ended on 31st December 1751, followed by 1st January 1752. Note that in continental Europe and Scotland, the Gregorian calendar had earlier superseded the Julian calendar.

Quakers followed English practice, with one exception: They objected to using those names of days (Sunday to Saturday) and months (January to August) that came from the names of pagan gods, and substituted numbers. Thus Sunday was “First Day.” Until 1752, Friends had no problem with September through December, which were derived from numbers, but for the other months they wrote out “First Month,” “Second Month,” and so on. They sometimes used Roman numerals (I‐XII) for these, and sometimes Arabic (1‐12). When Benjamin Lay wrote, November was Ninth Month. After 1752, all months were renumbered by Quakers, and September became Ninth Month.