AN   INTRODUCTION  TO  JANE   LEAD ( Jane Leade )
     17th  CENTURY   PROPHETESS  OF GOD   [1624–1704]

 

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On-line at PTW: November 4, 2012
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  ABOUT THIS INTRODUCTION TO JANE LEAD

A Note from PasstheWORD Services       

Autumn, 2012

Dear Readers:  We have waited until we were prompted to gather together and share with you an introduction to the 17th Century Prophetess of God, Jane Lead(e).  The tapestry of her life was woven and influenced by her spiritual encounters that you will find recorded in the authentic manuscript reproductions that have been carefully transcribed and are presently shared on this website.  Jane Leads publications provide much insight into her personal journey and spiritual progress through “this noisome Kedar” or worldly region.  Some of the content below was gleaned directly from her recovered writings, but many of the enlightening details have come from the work of others.  We are more than indebted to certain scholars, essayists, professors, and researchers who, in the pursuit of their own personal paths, were led to delve into the old historical records and to document certain temporal facts about the life and times of Jane Lead(e).  They are (or were) Joanne Magnani Sperle, Julie Hirst, Paula McDowell, Catherine F. Smith,  Arthur Versluis, Christopher Walton and Francis Lee.   It is from fragments found among their works that much of the factual information and quotes were gathered.   We thank the Lord for their thoroughness and ask His blessings upon them, whether now living or having passed from this world into whichever of the Eight Worlds that their own life-paths have chosen to be the next step on their eternal journey.  

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An Introduction to Jane Lead

Jane Ward Lead, was the daughter of a distinguished Norfolk Squire, Hamond Ward, and his wife, Mary Calthorpe Ward.  [The English word, Squire, (or in the old German, Schildknap) is defined as “a country gentleman or landed proprietor especially one who is the principal landowner in a village or district.”]  The Wards had nine children — seven sons (Charles, William, Edward, Philip, Richard, James and Hamond) and two daughters (Susan and Jane).     In seventeenth-century Norfolk, the Church of England was firmly established, and the Wards raised their children according to its tenets.  Jane, whose name means “the grace of the Lord,” was baptized and raised as a member of this English Church “in which all the Extraordinary Stirrings of the Divine Spirit are too generally Slighted, and by some Blasphemed.”  She described her early religious training according to its strictures as modest and honorable in the eyes of the Church. 

The Wards placed great emphasis on daily religious observance and they were not unique in so doing.  Families of that age devoted much time to praying together, as well as attending morning and evening services in the local church or in their own private chapel.  Such families believed in the personal relevance of the Scriptures and came to know the Bible intimately because it spoke directly “outside history, to men who believed passionately that the day of the Lord was imminent”.  Throughout her life, Jane Ward Lead also held this view of the Bible.

In her youth “Jane Ward was provided with a good education, one which was commensurate with her father’s position and rank.  As the daughter of a Squire, she would have remained at home and been taught by a private tutor, perhaps the chaplain who resided with the Ward family.  In keeping with the custom of the gentry, all of the Ward children would have been tutored at home until the boys were old enough to attend grammar school.  It is likely, then, that because of her father’s financial and social position, Jane Ward had the opportunity to learn languages (including Latin), history, ecclesiastical subjects, arithmetic, reading and penmanship, as well as the social graces.”

“The Wards were especially fond of music and dancing, and their home contained a special room for that purpose.  Such rooms, especially in fashion during Tudor times, were long and narrow and often ran the entire length of the house.  Windows were installed along one side, and ornamented glass, polished wooden floors, paneled walls with pictures and fine carvings, and wide fireplaces often made this room the most majestic area in the house.”  It was in such a setting, dedicated to the pleasures of the day, that Jane Ward, at the age of sixteen, had her first spiritual encounter.

Francis Lee’s Preface to the Wars of David relays Jane Ward Lead’s early experiences:

“When this Voice first spake to her, which was very suddenly and surprisingly, it was in a time of great Festivity, at the Celebration of the Nativity of CHRIST (according to custom) with Musick and Dancing, in the house of her Father, where was a Concourse for that end of the Gentry;  when of a sudden, grievous Sorrow was darted as Fire into her Bowels, and she was made to consider that this was not the way to be Conform’d to CHRIST, or to remember his Birth aright;   And a soft Whisper gently entered into her, saying, Cease from this, I have another Dance to lead thee in;  for this is Vanity.    Upon which she was constrain’d to give over abruptly her Dancing, and so presently withdrew her self from the Company, retiring to consider of this Immediate Call.    Which the Divine Spirit pursued so very hard, as after this she had no liberty to Converse, as formerly in the Family, or to mind any concern of it:  but  was so wholly taken up in the consideration of her Interiour State, and of the One Thing necessary, as to desert all things besides.  Yet though her Relations and Acquaintance took great notice, and marvelled much at what had happen’d, she diligently conceal’d the true Cause from them all;  excepting only a Chaplain in the House, who having some time afterward surpriz’d her reading in his Study, inquired into the matter, bad her be of good Courage, and believe that God had some great Good to bring about, by all this Conflict of Soul she was in.    Which was so terrible indeed, as nothing was able to give her any Satisfaction or Rest, or to ease her Wounded Spirit, that was struck through and through, for having once persisted in a falsehood about a Trifle:  The Sense of which continued upon her for a space of Three Years, with very great Anguish and Trouble;  these Words being frequently brought before her, Whoever loveth and maketh a Lye cannot enter into the New Jerusalem.   The Dreadfulness and Horrour of Sin carried her down to the Gates of Hell:  and every little Circumstance of its Evil, was continually presented to her Mind, with all the possible Aggravations thereof.”

“Now it was in the Nineteenth Year of her Age, when the Light of Divine Countenance, which had been hitherto hid, begun to shine upon her, and to bring her Soul out of this State of Obscurity and Darkness, and out of the Pains of Hell, that had taken hold upon her, feeling the Arrows of the Wrath of the Almighty:  And she was Comforted with the sweet Message of the Free and Superabounding Love and Grace of the most Tender and Merciful Father;  and was so richly favoured by her dear and blessed Mediator, as to receive at that time the Seal of her Absolution and Assurance, in a manner very special, there being presented to her in a Vision, the form of a Pardon, with a Seal to it;  signifying that her Transgressions were blotted out, and that she was Sealed by the Spirit, for the Promise of the Father;  as a Witness whereof a mighty Gust and Power of Prayer was then given to her.    And ever since she has been a trained Soldier, under the Discipline of the Blessed JESUS, and the leadings of his Spirit: which is a Spirit trying the Reins and the Marrow, and that will not abide but with simplicity of Heart, and Truth in the inward Parts.”

“During these formative years, Jane Ward “watchfully” and “interiorly” waited, deliberately seeking out individuals whom she judged to be closest to reflecting the apostolic practice.  She felt Divine Wisdom and Understanding begin to open in the center of her soul, revealing a special knowledge of God, Christ and self.”  Throughout her youthful trials, she also received support from several close relatives.   When she felt that a change from Norfolk was needed, the adventurous young woman boldly wrote a letter to her brother, Hamond, in London and asked him to obtain permission from their father for her to visit.  Young Hamond, a merchant, complied with his sister’s request and arranged for her journey.  She spent six months in London in attendance at many private and public religious meetings. 

During her stay in London, she met someone of a like mind whom she thought to marry.  “Her parents, however, did not approve of her choice and insisted that she immediately return home to Norfolk.  This was an age where parents often arranged marriages while their children were still in the nursery, taking into account such matters as property, social class, religion, and politics.   Through a good match, a Squire could considerably expand his estate and influence.”   This was also an age when a young woman was pressured tremendously to marry rather than not.   “Nothing is so ignominious as an overyeared maid, nor so much despised.”  Jane Ward was presented with and rejected several suitors before finally consenting to marry William Lead, a wealthy merchant who was also a distant relative.  She married him at the age of twenty, because, “she said he was a pious and Godfearing man who shared her religious beliefs”.  William and Jane Lead lived and worked “in mercantile London for twenty-seven years spanning civil wars, the regicide, Cromwell’s rule, and the restoration of the monarchy.”  They had four daughters — two of these died in infancy, one more as an adult.  “Of Jane Lead’s four children, only Barbara Lead Walton Lee would outlive her mother.” 

In 1663, at the age of thirty-nine, Jane Lead first met John Pordage (1607-1681), a former Anglican minister.  Although Pordage was seventeen years older than Lead, he was to give “great regard to and attend upon Jane Lead’s extraordinary gift of revelation;  she was the second prophetess in his life, the first being his wife, Mary, an especially pious and spiritual woman” who was also blessed with visionary gifts.  A small group of theosophers, who included men like Thomas Bromley (1629-1691) and Edmund Brice, both of whom were Oxford educated and writers of theosophic treatises themselves, had joined with John and Mary Pordage.  When Jane Lead first joined the gatherings of the Pordages, it was a small London group, which also included those who were living in the Pordages’ communal dwelling; they all were “following an alternative mystical tradition” as well as studying the recent revelations given to, and the published writings of the Teutonic Theosopher, Jacob Boehme (1575-1624) who, it is interesting to note, had died in the year of Jane Lead’s birth.

Jane Lead did not leave written records of any visionary experiences during the years of her marriage, but she was “given further signs of God’s grace”.  In 1668, two years prior to her husband’s death, “she received a manifestation which predicted changes to come in her personal life and outlined tasks for her to accomplish as a spiritual writer.”  As predicted, John Pordage’s wife, Mary, died shortly thereafter in 1668, followed by the death of Jane Lead’s husband, William, in early 1670. 

Jane Ward Lead had become a widow at the age of forty-six but her widowhood prompted “the rebirth of her spiritual life”.  With her Earthly husband gone, she was free to return to her first love.  Within two months Jane Lead began keeping a Diary of her spiritual encounters and experiences;  she would continue her Journal entries over a period of sixteen years from 1670 to 1686 on “loose shreds of Paper, for the sake of her own Memory and for the Monitions and Encouragements to some few particular Friends”.    Pages from her Diary were loaned to others; most were returned but others went missing, so that a reader sometimes finds, within the Diary, a notation to that effect. The exact date of death of her husband. William Lead, was February 5th, 1670, and that day of the year would later provide the occasion for regular reflections by Jane Lead in her ongoing Diary upon the anniversary of his death. 

It is not enough just to mention that Jane Lead kept a Diary and that it would later be published in four printings as:  A Fountain of Gardens, Volume I;  Volume IIVolume III, Part One;  and Volume III, Part Two.   It is important for us to realize that most of the contents of Jane Lead’s Journal were miraculously preserved over the centuries.  In the 20th century fragments of JL’s writings were found, modernized and shared with others by mail.  Beginning in the mid-1990’s, there was a Providential prompt given to collect not only the original contents of the Journals, but also the contents of all the other publications of Jane Lead, and to transcribe them accurately without modification, so as to make electronic reproductions of the text, as close to the appearance of the authentic originals as possible.  By the Grace of God this was accomplished, and in the late 90’s, the copyrighted e-texts of the authentic JL originals first went on-line at passtheword.org.  Over time the e-texts have been pirated and changed without permission, which we cannot condone;  those who have done so are reaping their own rewards.  Readers of JL should be aware that the authentic reproductions will remain at passtheword.org as long as our Lord wills it.  We rely on the Spirit of Truth to speak to each reader as they are able to hear, through whatever means necessary, wheresoever they find the messages (whether they are the authentic ones on those that have been corrupted).   

But to return to the contents of JL’s Diary, the first and very profound Journal entry of that Diary, dated April of 1670, less than two months after her husband’s passing, laid the foundation for the messages that were to follow.  It is presented here, in Jane Lead’s own words, from A Fountain of Gardens, Volume I.

“The First Vision that appeared to me was in the Month of April, 1670.
Which was on this wise;”

BEING my lot at that time to visit a Friend in a solitary Country-place, where I had great advantage of Retirement, often frequenting lonely Walks in a Grove or Wood; contemplating the happy State of the Angelical World;  and how desirous I was to have my Conversation there, my thoughts were much exercised upon Solomon’s Choice, which was to find out the Noble Stone of Divine Wisdom; for by acquainting my self with her, all desirable good in Spiritual things would meet upon me. The Report and Fame that Solomon gave of Wisdom, did much excite me to seek her Favour and Friendship; demurring in my self from whence she was descended, still questioning whether she was a distinct Being from the Deity or no?   Which while in this debate within my Mind, there came upon me an overshadowing bright Cloud, and in the midst of it the Figure of a Woman, most richly adorned with transparent Gold, her hair hanging down and her Face as the terrible Crystal for brightness, but her Countenance was sweet and mild. At which sight I was somewhat amazed, but immediately this Voice came, saying, Behold I am God’s Eternal Virgin-Wisdom, whom thou hast been enquiring after;  I am to unseal the Treasures of God’s deep Wisdom unto thee, and will be as Rebecca was unto Jacob, a true Natural Mother;  for out of my Womb thou shalt be brought forth after the manner of a Spirit, Conceived and Born again:  this thou shalt know by a New Motion of Life, stirring and giving a restlessness, till Wisdom be born within the inward parts of thy Soul.  Now consider of my Saying till I return to thee again.”

This Vision took great Impression on me, yet I kept it for the present hid, but it Operated so much upon me, as indeed I was incapable to converse with any Mortals;  which was taken notice of, that some extraordinary thing had happened;  for the which I begged my Friends excuse, and desired that she would give me the liberty to be much alone, and to walk in the silent Woods;  where I might contemplate what had so lately happened.   Now after three days, sitting under a Tree, the same Figure in greater Glory did appear, with a Crown upon her Head, full of Majesty; saying, Behold me as thy Mother, and know thou art to enter into Covenant, to obey the New Creation-Laws, that shall be revealed unto thee.  Then did she hold out a Golden Book with three Seals upon it, saying, Herein lieth hidden the deep Wonders of Jehovah’s Wisdom, which hath been sealed up, that none could, or ever shall break up, but such as of her Virgin-Offspring shall appear to be;  who will her Laws receive, and keep, as they shall spring daily in the New Heart and Mind. This Appearance, and Words, was wonderfully sweet and refreshing in my Soul;  at which I bowed, and prostrated at her Feet;  promising to be obedient to all her Laws.   So the Vision shut up for that time.”

“Pondering this in my Heart, with great comfort, that this Day-star had visited me from on high, I returned to London to my own Habitation, retiring my self from all my Acquaintance, saving one Person that was highly Illuminated, who encouraged me still to wait upon this Vision;  for he was acquainted with somewhat of this kind.   So after six days the Vision appear’d again, with a Train of Virgin-Spirits, and with an Angelical Host; and called to me to come and see the Virgin Queen, with her first-born Children; asking me, Whether I was willing to be joyned amongst this Virgin Company? At which I reply’d, All willing to offer up my self most free: Then immediately I was encompass’d about with this Heavenly Host, and made a Spirit of Light. Then these Words from the Virgin proceeded, saying, I shall now cease to appear in a Visible Figure unto thee, but I will not fail to transfigure my self in thy mind;  and there open the Spring of Wisdom and Understanding, that so thou mayest come to know the only True God, in and by the formation of Christ, the anointed Prophet in thee;  that shall reveal great and wonderful things unto thee, that are to be made known, and publick, in its time and day:  Therefore be watchful, and to thy Mother Wisdom’s Counsel give good heed, and thou shalt greatly prosper, and succeed the Prophets and Apostles to perfect what was left behind, for compleating as to Christ the Fulness of God’s great Mystery:   So go on, and nothing fear, or doubt; for I thy Glass for Divine Seeing shall evermore stand before thee.   Then my Spirit replyed, According to thy Word let all this be fulfilled.   And so this Glory withdrew; but an inward Glory did my Heart fill, for a burning Love to all of those Heavenly Beings did kindle within my Heart vehemently.”

This promise by God’s Eternal Virgin-Wisdom to Jane Lead would continue to unfold over the next decades, but not without interruptions and adverse happenings in her temporal world.  About the time of this first Journal entry, the widow would learn that the overseas administrator, to whom William Lead had entrusted their assets, refused to return what rightfully belonged to her.  Until that time in her life, she had always known financial security, comfort and a life of privilege.  The realization of her sudden poverty must have been overwhelming.   Although remarriage was the most popular choice for women in her position, it was not even considered;  Jane Lead’s earlier visions had prepared a path for her to follow, which put her totally in the hands of Jehovah’s Wisdom and her Lord.  In 1674 Jane Lead was led to move into John Pordage’s communal household, which caused an uproar among her relatives.  Even though one brother offered his financial assistance to her “if she would leave the Pordage household and come live with him”, Jane Lead refused to leave the spiritual community and the home that had been chosen for her.

Jane Lead and John Pordage were to become co-seekers and co-leaders of the alternative communal congregation.   Their friendship and spiritual partnership would last seventeen years.   John Pordage’s temporal life, his seven grown children, the death of his first wife in 1668, and his choosing to take a second wife, a widow who appears to have been on the scene in the communal household by 1677, all provided distractions, temptations, and frustrations to Pordage.  The distracting female, called Dalilah, was referred to at times in the Journal entries admonishing JP’s leanings away from the Virgin-spirit, and being dragged down.  This earthly distraction of his own choosing seems to have proved too much for him during this life.   As Jane Lead inserted into her Journal at the time of its printing {following the March 13, 1677 entry of A Fountain of Gardens, Volume II}... “This Person noted so often by me, did not arrive to this Perfect Degree, so as Wisdom’s First-born to be, though he reached far:  yet not able was he, while in this principle he lived, the Crown-Number to obtain;  the Dragon and the Beast hard War against him did make, in conjunction with the Elements, that did his outward mortal Life away take;  which did make out the Vision of the Child falling out of the Author’s Arms.  But the same Spirit is to revive in another, and so to be taken up again;  which shall assuredly make good this Visional Prophecy in its Time.”

It should be said, however, that John Pordage did accomplish a mission of great importance to us, as he helped to collect, preserve and transcribe Lead’s spiritual Diary until his death in 1681when, at the age of fifty-seven, Jane Lead assumed leadership of their congregation and as directed by her Mother Wisdom’s counsel, she published The Heavenly Cloud Now Breaking in 1681 followed by The Revelation of Revelations in 1683.  She also published her departed friend, Pordage’s Theologia Mystica in 1683.  Following the death of John Pordage, the communal household that had lived at his residence would make other living arrangements;  no records of the details of this time period in Jane Lead’s life are mentioned in the material that has been reviewed.   It appears that she withdrew on purpose, to her own wilderness experience during this time.  Her revelations and messages, along with her Journal entries, continued from wherever she was living, and our account of her life resumes some eleven years later when she would be provided with another helper in the accomplishment of her mission.

Next to John Pordage, Jane Lead’s most important spiritual partner was to be Dr. Francis Lee (1661-1719), a younger Oxford theologian and non-juror who had left England to study medicine in the Netherlands.  While there, Lee first learned about Mrs. Lead by reading some of her works that had been translated into German.  Urged by two separate sources to seek her out, the thirty-three-year-old Lee returned home to England in 1694, and after searching for her, discovered the seventy-year-old Mrs. Lead living in an almshouse, a House of Charity, located in Stepney, “her cell lying at a little distance in the country”.  She had chosen to live in poverty as far as the world was concerned, set apart in watchfulness, waiting upon further revelations that had been promised by God’s Eternal Virgin-Wisdom, and enjoying the richness of her Lord’s company which her writings show was not wanting. 

This was the beginning of a new spiritual alliance for Mrs. Lead.  Francis Lee, who was thirty-seven years younger than Lead, would inform his Oxford schoolfellow, rector Richard Roach, about Lead, and the two of them would become leading exponents of Lead’s theosophy.   For the next ten years, until her death in 1704, Lead would have two Oxford-educated scholars to help transcribe her visions, answer her growing correspondence, and see many of her prolific visions put into print.   During this period, Lead’s friends multiplied on all sides, her quiet, low estate was transformed, and an invisible hand provided supplies continually. 

One contributor, a “Baron Kniphausen, who was an administrator at the court of Frederick III, elector of Brandenburg”, had read the German translation of Lead’s The Heavenly Cloud Now Breaking;  he was so moved by the work that he sent funds to enable Lead to move out of the House of Charity.  Mrs. Lead and her daughter, Barbara Walton, took a little house in Hoxton Square in Shoreditch.   Kniphausen also commissioned a person, “Loth Fischer, of Utrecht” to translate Jane Lead’s other works into German as soon as they appeared in English.  Through Providential circumstances, Francis Lee would marry Jane Lead’s widowed daughter, Barbara Walton, during this same time period.  Together, Lead, and her new friends would organize the Philadelphian Society, whose membership would also include “those same spiritual people, who for about 50 years had met together after the primitive way of attendance or waiting for the Holy Spirit to assist and activate them in praying or speaking to the edification of each other.” 

In 1696 The Philadelphian Society undertook their major mission, the project of publishing Lead’s sixteen-year Diary of spiritual encounters; this 2,500-page work was finally completed in 1701.  Jane Lead’s messages from the Godhead were then in print in English, with German translations being done for the Philadelphians who lived on the continent.   A public outreach also occurred while Jane Lead was alive which extended their influence for a time.  “Jane Ward Lead lived to the age of eighty and died during the sixty-fifth year of her vocation to the inward and devout life.”  When the membership agreed that their work was done, they “dissolved the Philadelphian Society, and resign’d its name from their own peculiar appropriation back into its general latitude” that all who were so led would strive to become  true Philadelphians as had been defined afresh in the messages brought from the Godhead through Jane Lead. 

The availability in print of these writings was indeed a challenge to the organized religions of the day   “In an age where there was no strict separation between church and state, and the English monarch was also the head of the national church, the proposition that there was a mystical, as well as a literal interpretation of Scripture, and that this was currently being revealed to an elderly woman living in an almshouse in Stepney, was threatening.”   Over time, the printed editions of the messages all but disappeared from circulation, but thankfully they were archived, and later photographed, to be preserved on microfilm.

The influence of the messages about the infinite Love of God, brought from the Godhead through Jane Lead, can be found down through history.  Over time, however, the uncomfortable portions of the messages, emphasizing the Original Gospel’s call to self denial, the necessity of dying to self, the mandate to turn away from the ways of the world, and the clear restatement of the requirements for the Melchizedeck priesthood’s sexual purity, were ignored, compromised, diluted, suppressed, and mostly forgotten.  However those uncomfortable requirements are still contained in the contents of the authentic transcriptions, and the passages pertaining to them have even been collected together as a topical refresher for readers of Jane Lead.  This Jane Lead Collection was produced by joining together excerpts from her authentic messages, regarding the uncomfortable subjects just mentioned, into a single reference document.  The most High had used Jane Lead to bring a restatement of that which had disappeared from what was calling itself Christianity in her time.  For more confirmations from other men and women of God that were called in their own times to admonish and recall to mankind those missing requirements, there are other recovered writings here at PasstheWORD for readers to explore.  Even the scriptures themselves still show the missing parts of the modern gospel that are presently being ignored by counterfeit christianity ... for those readers who have the heart to look at them.

The Godhead has used the yielded instruments of Jane Lead and others to clearly set forth afresh the original gospel message.  Bringing these writings into the light once again has been the mission of those who have brought these documents together at passtheword.org — for those who are called of God to seek them out.  Today, in the chaos that confronts us all, not only in the physical realm, but also in the spiritual, we are eternally thankful to have become re-acquainted with these precious messages in their authentic original form, which can, if we are willing, take us back to the beginning, shine light into our dark confusion, provide us with a much needed course correction and once again give us directions for the inward walk that leads us again back onto the path to the home of our nativity. 

 

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