…then you’ll want to read the letter below, written by Lydia Lancaster to Gilbert Thompson. Lydia was a British Quaker and a traveling minister in England, Scotland, and Ireland. She also journeyed to America in 1718. Her letters were not published until 1840.
Actually, even very modern Friends can “translate” Lydia’s letter into their own spiritual idiom and profit from her words. (Brian Drayton selected this letter as one of his Midweek Meditations.)
Colthouse, 29th of 10th Month, 1729.
Endeared Friend and Kinsman, -
Often art thou present with me in spirit, strong cries also in a spring of Divine love filling my heart on thy account, that the merciful visitation from on high may still be continued and increased thee-ward, to the making of thee both fit and compliable, to answer such love as hath been and is bestowed on thee, for a good end no doubt, and which I have not fear that thou art unmindful of.
I believe thou often hast low thoughts of thyself, yet a high esteem for Truth and the walkers therein. It is such as those who come to be exalted in time, even the lowlies, who are ready to say, "Who is so unworthy, whoso unfit as I? I love the Truth, but alas! I can do nothing to promote it!" It is those who cannot, and dare not do of themselves, that the Holy One will make use of, to do by and to do for, as seemeth good in his sight. The whole building or work is his, there is not tool to be lifted up upon it, but his own hand is to do it both immediately and instrumentally, and when that instrument knows and keeps its place, in lying be and keeping still he take it in hand, and then mind the turning of his hand, the motions of his Spirit, in beginning, and in going on, and in leaving off, then his wisdom and glory are the most manifest, and that servant lies down in most safety and peace. It is good for the servant to be one with his Master's mind, to have no will, or at least not to suffer any will to act in him, but what agrees in pure obedience with the requirings of the great Lord, who, in all things, is worthy to be served and followed to the end.
Oh! then consider the early visitations thou hast been favoured with — the melting, bowing times thou hast had; it makes me remember my own going on, because that was the way and manner I was followed when very young. And blessed be the Author thereof, I hope I may say it hath not been in vain, if I hold but fast the faith firm unto the end, which is a shield as needful for me now as ever in all my life, for it is a troublesome sort of a disturbed passage that I have to tread in this pilgrimage of tears, yet often sweetened by the enjoyment of Divine favour.
The last time I heard of thee it was a time of great weakness with thee, which took deep hold of my mind, and thankful to Providence I am for thy recovery, hoping thou will make a good use of it, and mind thy day's work while the day lasteth, that it may be well with thee when it is over. Thou knowest the harvest is great, and the faithful labourers in many places are too few. It is our duty both to pray and to be engaged in our own particulars for the work going on, which is begun in the earth, many of our worthy fathers being gone to their rest from their labours, and we, who remain in their places, are passing on after them toward eternity: Oh! let us be faithful to death, that we may have a crown of life with them hereafter.
Dear Gilbert, my heart is replenished with love to thee, yet I must conclude, desiring my love to thy mother and sisters, etc. Maybe, we shall see each other at our spring meeting, meanwhile let us be true in our desire for each other, and for the Israel and heritage of God every where, that Truth may increase, and cover the earth in a more general way to his praise, and the comfort of all his mourners, that they may put on the garments of praise, instead of the spirit of heaviness, - so wisheth, so prayeth, thy firm friend and true lover in the covenant of endless life, L. Lancaster.
~ submitted by Richard Russell
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