Shaker Commentary from the Past:

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A Brief History of the Rise and Progress of the United Society


 

Taken   from: “TESTIMONY OF CHRIST'S SECOND APPEARING

I.

1. IN order to have a just view of the preceding work, it should be understood that, from the beginning, all the works of God, have been progressive, growing into higher and higher degrees and orders, of maturity and perfection. But the Divine sphere of orders and perfections was never brought to light, until revealed by the pure Spirit of Christ, in his first and second appearing. (See 1 Cor. 9:12).

2. During the many ages of antichristian darkness, when the rights and consciences of the human race were bound in the fetters of ecclesiastical bigotry, and the chains of tyrannical and arbitrary power,

3. Faithful witnesses, chosen and appointed of God, had from age to age, borne testimony against this beastly and bloody power of antichrist, millions of whom had fallen victims to his cruelty; but, under the invisible and restraining power of Christ, this beastly influence began to be cut off at the time appointed.

4. The people called Quakers were the last, who were persecuted unto death, for the testimony which they held; but, as the work among them never advanced to a separation between the kingdom of Christ and the kingdom of this world, hence in process of time, distrusting the providence of God, and petitioning the same antichristian power for toleration and protection, and taking part in the worldly government under the dominion of antichrist, they gained an honorable standing in the world, but lost that degree of the light and power of God, in which they had at first stood for a time.

5. Soon after this, the spirit of prophecy appeared in those called French prophets, attended with the most convincing evidences of Divine power; but these extraordinary appearances were not of long continuance.

6. However, a few of those French prophets came over to England about the year 1706, and opened their testimony in and about London, which was a means of great awakening, and numbers received their spirit, which continued to operate, in a greater or less degree, until its principal effect was produced in a small body of people, who were gathered into a society, under the special ministry of James and Jane Wardley, among whom was a particular work of preparation for the true and real manifestation of Christ. This work began in Bolton and Manchester, in the county of Lancashire, in England, about the year 1747.

II.

1. James Wardley, a tailor by trade, and Jane his wife, who wrought at the same occupation, had belonged to the society of people called Quakers; but, receiving the spirit of the French prophets, and a further degree of light and power, by which they were separated from that community, they continued for several years, disconnected from every denomination. During this time, their testimony, according to what they saw by vision, and revelation from God, was, That the second appearing of Christ was at hand, and that the Church was rising in her full and transcendent glory, which would effect the final downfall of antichrist.

2. From Bolton they removed to Manchester, and lived for a number of years in Canon Street, with John Townley, who was by trade a bricklayer; and possessed considerable property. Here the number of persons forming their society, was about thirty.

3. James and Jane Wardley, as well as most of the society, were in low temporal circumstances; but as John Townley was wealthy, he contributed liberally to the support of such of the society as were needy; on which account he sustained much injury in his property, by persecutors. The meetings of the society were held both at Manchester and Bolton, (which were twelve miles apart,) but more generally at Manchester.

III.

1. John Townley had a measure of faith in the testimony of James and Jane Wardley; his wife was a member of the society, and had great power of God, and the gift of prophecy. John Hocknell was her natural brother; he lived in Cheshire, twenty-four miles from Manchester. According to the account of his daughter, Mary Hocknell, he, having separated from the Church of England, had joined the Methodist society, and had started meetings at his house; till visiting the society at Manchester several times, and afterwards being visited by James Wardley, about the year 1766, he received faith in his testimony.

2. And, being very zealous for the cause, and a wealthy man, a number of poor members of the society were gathered and supported at his house, which, at first displeased Hannah his wife, and her natural relations, (the Dickins family,) who were wealthy and high-spirited people; whereupon three of her brothers, with the assistance of a magistrate, had John put into prison at Middlewich, four miles from his own house. He was tried and released. Soon after, Hannah became a member of the society, and continued through all the increase of the work, till she departed this life (in America) sound in the faith of the Gospel, A. D. 1797.

IV.

1. About this time, [1766,] and onward, the Believers frequently held meetings at John Partington's, in Mayor-town, as they passed and re-passed from Manchester to John Hocknell's. The manner of public devotion practiced by the society, while under the ministry of Jane and James Wardley, was, in divers operations of the Spirit and power of God, according as they were moved from time to time.

2. Sometimes, after assembling together, and sitting a while in silent meditation, they were taken with a mighty trembling, under which they would express the indignation of God against all sin. At other times, they were affected, under the power of God, with a mighty shaking; and were occasionally exercised in singing, shouting, or walking the floor, under the influence of spiritual signs, swiftly passing and re-passing each other, like clouds agitated by a mighty wind.

3. From these strange exercises the people received the name of Shakers, and by some were called Shaking Quakers; but, from the time of James Wardley's ministration to the present day, they have been most generally known and distinguished by the name of Shakers. But their being led into shaking by the power of God, is an evident sign, to discerning minds, of the Divine nature of the work.

V.

1. The work which God promised to accomplish in the latter day was eminently marked out by the Prophets, to be a work of shaking; and hence the name was very properly applied to the people, who were both the subjects and instruments of the work of God in the latter day.

2. Thus the Lord promised that he would shake the earth with terror; that “in that day there should be a great shaking in the land of Israel” that he would “shake the heavens and the earth” that he would “shake all nations, and the Desire of all nations should come.” And, according to the Apostle, that “yet once more, he would shake, not the earth only, but also heaven” signifying the removing of things that are shaken, as of things that are made, that those things which cannot be shaken may remain. (Lowth’s Translation of Isa. 2:19, 21, Ezek. 38:19, 20, Isa. 13:13, Joel 3:16. Hag. 2:6, 7, 21 & Heb. 12:26).

3. All these prophecies particularly alluded to the latter day, and now, in reality, begin to be fulfilled; of which the name itself was a striking evidence; but much more the nature and operations of the work. Therefore it was, that the present work of God began in shaking, both as a preparatory, and an increasing work, for the full and final manifestation of Christ. And this particular operation was a significant token that God was about to shake to the foundation, and utterly ruin all the corrupt systems of men, and their false notions of the work of God, and of the use and end of his creatures.

4. The effects of Christ's first appearing, were far from fulfilling those promises in their full extent; for in reality, that heaven which was to be shaken, had not yet been built; neither did the appearing of Christ, in the form of a man fulfill the desire of all nations. But a second appearing was to be manifested in a woman, which completed the desire of all nations, by the revelation of the Mother Spirit in Christ, an emanation from the eternal Mother.

5. For, as in the natural order of man, the desire of all nations, which is glory and perpetuity, is completed by the female; so also, it is in the spiritual order of Christ; the desire of all nations for glory and immortality can only be completed by the female. But, though all nations have looked for the Messiah, or divine teacher, to fulfill their highest hopes of happiness, yet their ideas of the Messiah, or Christ's final coming, and the nature of his work are erroneous, because only natural. (See 1 Cor. 2:14).

VI.

1. These various operations continued, with a gradual increase of light and power, until the year 1770, when the present testimony of salvation and eternal life was fully opened, according to the special gift and revelation of God, through ANN LEE, who, at that time, was received by the society as their spiritual Mother; of whom it may be sufficient, here, to state the following particulars:

2. According to her natural genealogy, she was of the English nation; born February 29th, in the year 1736, in the town of Manchester, where she was also brought up. Her natural father, John Lee, lived in Toad-lane, in Manchester, and was a blacksmith by trade, with whom she lived until she embarked for America. By occupation, she was a cutter of hatters' fur. She was also employed as a cook in the Manchester Infirmary. By these means she was inured to habits of industry, and was very frugal and economical. She had five natural brothers, viz: Joseph, James, Daniel, William, and George, also two sisters, Mary and Nancy.

3. From her childhood, she had great light and conviction of the sinfulness and depravity of human nature, which she often made known to her parents, entreating that counsel and protection by which she might be preserved from sin. But not having attained that knowledge of God which she early desired, nor having any to strengthen or protect her, in the pursuit of that true holiness which she sought, she grew up in the same fallen nature with the rest of mankind, and being prevailed upon by the earnest solicitations of her relations and acquaintances, she yielded reluctantly, was married, and had four children, all of whom died in infancy. Her husband, Abraham Stanley, was also a blacksmith, and lived with her at her father's house, while he remained in England.

VII.

1. About the year 1758, she became a subject of the work that was under the ministration of James and Jane Wardley, and joined herself to that society, who then were called Shakers. The people of that society were known to be of blameless deportment, remarkable for the clearness of their testimony against sin, the strictness of their moral discipline, and the innocence and purity of their lives and manners.

2. As their light extended to the confession of every known sin, and to the taking up of a cross against every thing which they knew to be evil, hence they were endowed with great power, by which ANN found that protection, which, for the time then present, was answerable to her faith; and in all things she conformed to the rules of discipline in the society, and was baptized into the same spirit; and, by her perfect obedience to all that she was taught, she attained to the full knowledge and experience of those who stood in the foremost light.

3. As the only distinction among the members of the Society was formed according to the different degrees of spiritual light and power known and felt in each, respectively, and as it was the faith of the society not to rest short of complete salvation from all sin; therefore, those who received the greatest light and power of God, were acknowledged as the lead; that is, the greatest light of God, in whomsoever it was made manifest, was acknowledged, and followed as the lead, without respect to persons.

VIII.

1. When ANN, by her perfect obedience, had attained to all that was made manifest in the leading characters of the society, still finding in herself the seed, or remains of human depravity, and a lack of the Divine nature, which is eternal life abiding in the soul, she did not rest satisfied in that state, but labored in continual watchings and fastings, in tears and incessant cries to God, day and night, for deliverance. And, under the most severe tribulation, and violent temptations, as great as she was able to resist and endure, such was, frequently, her extreme agony of soul, that blood would issue through the pores of her skin.

2. By such deep mortification and suffering, her flesh wasted away, and she became like a skeleton, wholly incapable of helping herself; and was fed and nourished like an infant, although, naturally, free from bodily infirmities, and a person of a strong and sound constitution, and invincible fortitude of mind.

IX.

1. In this manner she was more or less exercised in soul and body for about nine years, during which period the way of God, and the nature of his work, were gradually opened from one thing to another, and the light and understanding which she received, was gradually communicated to the society, until she received that manifestation of God by which the man of sin was revealed, and through which she discovered the transgression of the first woman — the root and foundation cause of human depravity, whence all mankind were lost and separated from God; and by special and immediate revelation, she received the Testimony of God against the whole corruption of man, in its root and every branch; which is properly, the testimony against the flesh or the testimony against all sin.

2. This testimony, in its fullness, she received in open vision from the Lord Jesus Christ, who appeared plainly, and clearly revealed the true nature and work of the everlasting Gospel of salvation to her. This was while she was in the public prison, where she was put by the malice of her enemies, through false accusation, because of the searching light and increasing power manifest through her. Thus she received her mission by the heavenly dove, or Divine Anointing Spirit of Christ in the order of the female. Her testimony was now increased in such mighty power of God, attended with the word of prophecy, and such energy of the Spirit, as penetrated into the secrets of the heart, and was irresistible, especially to those with whom she was united.

3. And, from the light and power of God, which attended her ministry, and the certain power of salvation transmitted to those who received her testimony, she was received and acknowledged as the first Mother, or spiritual Parent in the line of the female, and the second Heir in the covenant of life, according to the present display of the Gospel. Hence, among Believers, she has been distinguished by no other name or title than that of Mother, from that period to the present day. She refused to be addressed by the customary titles used by the world, such as Miss, Mrs. Madam, etc..

X.

1. After ANN was received and acknowledged as the Spiritual Mother and Leader of the society, the manner of worship and the exercises in their public assemblies were, singing and dancing, shaking and shouting, speaking with new tongues and prophesying, with all those various gifts of the Holy Spirit known in the primitive Church. These gifts progressively increased, until the establishment of the Church in America; by which those who were in the spirit of the work were convinced, beyond all doubt or controversy, that it was the beginning of Christ's reign upon earth.

2. The first full and public testimony which was borne by Mother, against the root of human depravity, was in the year 1770. And the convincing power of God which attended it, caused the formal denominations to raise and stir up tumultuous mobs, by whom she was often shamefully and very cruelly treated; and was a number of times imprisoned.

XI.

1. About that time, on the first day of the week, at her father's house, where the society were assembled, and while in the worship of God, under great power, the house was beset by a tumultuous mob, at the head of which was the warden. They broke open the door, and dragged out Mother, and cast her into the dungeon of the stone prison, where she remained fourteen days, without any sustenance except what was conveyed to her by putting the stem of a pipe through the key-hole of the prison door, and pouring milk and other liquids into the bowl of it. This was done by one of the Believers, James Whittaker, a young man who had been brought up by MOTHER ANN.

2. But, finding in her no cause of accusation, she was set at liberty, and continued to bear the testimony, as she was moved and directed by the gift of God, and the generality of the people continued to reject it, until the testimony ceased in England, about two years before she received her mission and revelation of God in relation to America, by which she saw the future increase of the work of God, and the establishment and glory of Christ's kingdom in this land of freedom. This she communicated to her followers.

XII.

1. Accordingly, as many as were able to follow her in the designed purpose of God, settled their temporal affairs in England, paid their passage at Liverpool, on the 19th of May, 1774, and embarked for America, in the ship Mariah, Captain Smith, of New York.

2. Those who embarked with Mother, were Elder William Lee, her natural brother, Elders James Whittaker and John Hocknell, Richard Hocknell, son of John Hocknell, James Shepherd, Mary Partington, and Nancy Lee, a niece of MOTHER ANN— eight in number.

3. James and Jane Wardley removed from John Townley's, the same summer, into a hired house, from whence they were afterwards taken to the alms house, and there died. John Hocknell returned to England in 1775, and came again to America, with his family and others; and those of the society who remained in England, being without lead or protection, generally, lost their power, and fell into the common course and practice of the world.

XIII.

1. Before they embarked, MOTHER ANN told the captain that he should not have whereof to accuse them, except it were concerning the law of their God. While on their passage, they went forth, in obedience to their inward feelings, to praise God in songs and in dances. This offended the captain to such a degree that he threatened to throw them overboard, if they attempted the like exercise again. But, as MOTHER ANN had put her trust in God, whom she feared, she was not willing to be restrained in her duty, by the fear of mortals; she therefore chose to obey God rather than man, and accordingly went forth again, in obedience to the Divine influence she felt.

2. At this the captain became greatly enraged, and attempted to put his threats into execution. But that God in whom they trusted, and who had sent them to do his will, protected them in a marvelous manner. It was in the evening, in the time of a storm; and the ship suddenly sprung a leak, occasioned by the starting of a plank between wind and water. The water now flowed in so rapidly that, notwithstanding all their exertions at the pumps, it gained upon them so fast that the whole ship's crew were greatly alarmed. The captain turned pale as a corpse, and said they must all perish before morning; for he saw no possible means to save the ship from sinking.

3. But MOTHER ANN maintained her confidence in God, and said, “Captain, be of good cheer; there shall not a hair of our heads perish. We shall all arrive safe at America. I just now saw two bright angels of God standing by the mast, through whom I received this promise.”  She then encouraged the seamen, and she and her companions zealously assisted at the pumps. Shortly after this, a large wave struck the ship with great violence, and the loose plank was instantly closed to its place.

4. Whether this remarkable incident was effected by the violent force of the wave against the plank, or by some other unaccountable means, it was then viewed by all on board as a miraculous interposition of Divine Providence in their favor. They were soon, in a great measure, released from the pumps; the captain, after this, gave them free and full liberty to worship God according to the dictates of their own consciences, and promised that he would never molest them again. He was faithful to his promise, and treated them with kindness and respect during the remainder of the voyage, and was afterwards free to declare, that had it not been for these people, he should have been sunk in the sea, and never reached America.

5. Thus, after enduring the storms and dangers of the sea, in an old, leaky ship, which had been condemned as unfit for the voyage, and came very near foundering at sea, they all arrived safe in New York, on the sixth of August following. This account was attested by the captain, and by many witnesses, both believers and unbelievers. (See Millennial Church p. 20).

 

XIV.

1. When Mother landed at New York, she counseled those who came with her, for a season, to seek their livelihood where they could find employ, as they were mostly poor, and had nothing to subsist upon but what they obtained by honest industry. Accordingly, they were all scattered in different parts of the country. Mother Ann herself remained in New York, in a family by the name of Smith, in Queen street, (now Pearl street,) where she was treated with great kindness, and continued there until the spring of the year 1776.

2. John Hocknell, about this time, sailed for England, to bring out his family and make further arrangements for the settlement of the society in this country. During John Hocknell's absence to England, MOTHER ANN went several times up the river, and visited those of the society who resided in the vicinity of Albany, and was occasionally visited by some of them; but still continued her residence in New York.

3. In the latter part of the summer or beginning of Autumn, 1775, Abraham Stanley was visited with a severe sickness. To nurse and take care of him in this sickness, required MOTHER ANN'S whole time and attention. This duty she performed with the utmost care and kindness, though often at the expense of great sufferings on her own part. Their earnings now ceased, and they were reduced to extreme poverty.

4. Abraham at length recovered his health, so as to be able to walk the streets; and though he never had been considered as a faithful and substantial Believer; yet he had hitherto supported his credit and reputation, and maintained an outward conformity to his faith. But, on regaining his health, and before he was fully able to return to his occupation, he began to associate with the wicked at public houses, and soon lost all sense and feeling of religion, and began to oppose MOTHER ANN'S testimony in a very ungodly manner, and urged her to renounce it, and live in sexual cohabitation, like the rest of the world. She replied, that she was willing to do anything for him which justice, reason, or humanity required; but she would never consent to violate her duty to God, and endeavored to prevail on him to return to his duty and be faithful.

5. But Abraham was determined to pursue the course of the world, and continued his vicious practice, instead of returning to his occupation, and left ANN to provide for herself. At length he brought a lewd woman into the house to her, and declared that unless she would consent to live in sexual cohabitation with him, he would take that woman for his wife. ANN, with great firmness and resolution, replied, that she would not do it though he should take her life as the consequence of her refusal.

6. She also informed him, in plain terms, that she considered his cruel and abusive conduct as a very unjust requital for the uniform kindness and attention which she had paid to him, both in sickness and in health; and said she was still willing to take the most tender care of him, if he would return to his duty, and conduct himself as he ought to do; and urged him, in the most feeling manner, to return to the obedience of his faith; but all to no effect. He soon went off with the woman, to a distant part of the city, and it was reported that he was shortly after married to her. Thus ended the connection between Mother ANN and Abraham Stanley. (See Millennial Church p. 22).

7. She then went by water, up to Albany, and from thence to Niskeuna, (now Watervliet,) and about the month of September, fixed her residence where the Church is now established, eight miles Northwest from the centre of the city of Albany. This was an obscure place in the wilderness, remote from the public eye. Here the Believers gathered as their place of residence; and here they held their solemn meetings, particularly on the first day of the week, full three years and a half, until the opening of the testimony in the spring of the year 1780. At this time, various reports began to be spread abroad concerning these people.

XV.

1. The first general opening of the testimony in America, was at New-Lebanon, County of Columbia, and State of New York; in consequence of a remarkable religious awakening which had taken place in those parts, in the year 1779, and was a work of preparation for the reception of the Gospel, which was opened the following year, (1780,) and received by many.

2. As Mother and the Elders who came from England, resided at Watervliet, then about forty miles distant from the main body of those who had lately believed; and, as great numbers from New-Lebanon, and other eastern parts, resorted there for instruction and counsel, the Believers at New-Lebanon, Hancock, and other places, who were able, found it necessary to take provisions there for their support, which served as an occasion, to some prejudiced persons, to misrepresent and accuse the people of being enemies to the country, and to stir up those in power to persecute and distress them.

XVI.

1. One particular circumstance of this kind took place in the month of July, 1780. As David Darrow was on the way between Lebanon and Albany, with a flock of sheep, which he was driving to Watervliet, he was followed by a company of evil-minded men, who pretended to have authority to arrest him. Accordingly, they brought him back, with his sheep, to New Lebanon, and took him before the court, under pretense of treason. But, finding no just ground of accusation against him, to answer their purpose, these ravenous wolves, after dividing the sheep among themselves, sent their owner, (accompanied by Joseph Meacham) under guard, to be tried by the commissioners at Albany.

2. Being brought before the commissioners, they were required to promise obedience to their laws, without being informed what those laws would be. But, had the commissioners even been disposed to form laws consistent with the faith of the Believers, they well knew that it was contrary to their faith to make any such promise, because they considered all such outward obligations as masks of hypocrisy, under which their accusers themselves were acting in direct violation of those just and equitable principles, in support of which, they pretended to be contending with the powers of Britain.

3. Besides, they were aware of the design of their accusers, to take an undue advantage of such promises, whereby they might either distress them, or compel them to bear arms and shed human blood, contrary to their faith. And, as the Spirit of Christ, which they had within them, both disposed and enabled them to keep every just law, without any external obligation; therefore, they could not in conscience answer the request. Whereupon David Darrow, Joseph Meacham, and Elder John Hocknell, were put into prison; and, soon after Hezekiah Hammond and Joel Pratt; and then MOTHER ANN, accompanied by Mary Partington, Elder William Lee, Elder James Whittaker, and Calvin Harlow, all of whom were leading characters in the work, were arrested and imprisoned at Albany.

4. All this took place at the instigation of certain designing men in the east, who were continually stirring up those in authority, and other citizens who were otherwise well disposed. Nevertheless, the commissioners at Albany generally treated Mother and the Elders with kindness; and many sensible and candid men expressed their displeasure at the injustice and inconsistency of imprisoning and oppressing an innocent people for no other cause, in reality, but their peculiar faith; and especially at a time when the nation itself was struggling to get free from the oppression of a foreign yoke.

XVII.

1. Yet, notwithstanding those outward bonds of affliction, the Word of God was not bound, but even through the grates of the prison, was preached to crowded assemblies. Many received faith through the Elders, while in prison, and came and confessed their sins, "and showed their deeds;" and such was the convincing power of God which attended the Word, that, frequently in presence of the crowd, open confessions were made, of every known sin; so mightily grew the Word of God and prevailed. Although the persecutors intended this imprisonment of Mother and the Elders, for evil; yet the Lord overruled it for good, while it wrought effectually to the spreading of the Gospel. (See Acts 19:18-20).

2. Believers were allowed the privilege of communion with those in prison, and of ministering freely to their necessities. But, very shortly after their imprisonment, Mother was separated from the rest, and taken from Albany, accompanied by Mary Partington, and conveyed down the river, with a design of banishing her to the British army, which then laid at New York; but, her persecutors failing of their purpose, she was landed, and put into prison at Poughkeepsie, where she remained until about the last of December.

3. The Elders and Believers at Albany, having been released about the 20th of the same month, without any formal trial, by order of Gov. George Clinton. This was done as soon as he was properly informed of the matter. And, on receiving information from Mother's associate Elders, William Lee, and James Whittaker, of her treatment, and by their intercessions in her behalf, he immediately issued an order for her releasement, having had no certain knowledge of the affair before. Thus she was released about the last of December, 1780, and joyfully returned to her children, to their great consolation. Governor G. Clinton visited New-Lebanon after the Church was established, upwards of twenty years after the above circumstances, and mentioned the event of his releasing "your Mother," (as he termed it,) and expressed much satisfaction in having done so.

4. It is particularly worthy of observation, that, in all those imprisonments, and the accusations against Mother and the Elders, and others of the Believers, both in England and America, no fault could ever be found, as to their lives and moral character; nor any evil alleged against them, but from mere slander, on account of their faith and testimony. Nor was any persecution ever raised against them, but by means of that false religion and spirit of oppression, which had long been established in the British dominions, and whose despotic influence had not yet ceased in America.

XVIII.

1. It is unnecessary, however, to enlarge on this subject, or to state all the particulars of the abuse which Mother, and the Elders, and the Believers in America received on different occasions, from lawless ruffians, who were taught by the false religion of their forefathers, to commit the most scandalous outrages upon a harmless people, under pretense of suppressing error. It may here suffice, simply to observe, that Mother was the principal object at which their rage was pointed; that during the time of her ministry, she frequently suffered cruel, shameful, and immodest abuse, and at times it seemed as though naught but supernatural power saved her life. The Elders also, were at times, most cruelly beaten and abused by lawless mobs, without the least immoral accusation having ever been substantiated against them. Others also of the people suffered much abuse, both in person and property, solely on the ground of their faith and cross-bearing life.

2. But Mother's testimony was supported, and gained the ascendancy, amidst those scenes of trial and difficulty, which, to every outward appearance, were insurmountable, and under which she persevered, unshaken and immovable, with that patience and fortitude of mind which surpassed all human comprehension. And, although unsupported by letter-learning, and independent of man's wisdom; yet she was supported by that hidden wisdom and power of God, by which she opened the Scriptures, and the very nature of things, in so convincing a manner, that none were able to gainsay or resist the force of her words, upon any principle of candor.

3. After Mother and the Elders were released from prison, they again collected together at Watervliet, where they were visited by great numbers from distant parts of the States of New York, Massachusetts, Connecticut, New Hampshire and Maine, who received faith; and through the power and gifts of God, which were abundantly manifested for the destruction of sin, and the salvation of souls, many were filled with joy unspeakable and full of glory, and increased in their understanding of the way and work of God.

XIX.

1. In May, 1781, Mother and the Elders left Watervliet and visited the different parts, from place to place, where the Gospel had been received; and in all the principal places which they visited, they were resorted to from the adjacent parts; and their ministry being every where accompanied with the gifts of the Holy Spirit, in searching out sin and purging iniquity from the soul, Believers were built up in their most holy faith, and received an increase of that overcoming power by which they were enabled to keep out of sin, were filled with consolation and peace, and many were added to the faith. In these journeys they were much persecuted and abused, by the wicked oppressors of the truth.

2. Having finished their labors among the distant Believers, they returned to Watervliet, where they arrived in August, 1783, having been absent about two years and four months. On the 21st day of July, in the year following, Elder William Lee departed this life at Watervliet, being forty four years of age.

3. The decease of Elder William served as a particular means of preparing the minds of Believers for a still heavier trial, in being deprived of the visible presence and protection of Mother, the thought of which seemed almost insupportable to many. But having finished the work which was given her to do, she departed this life at Watervliet, on the 8th, day September, 1784.

4. Thus, in the early dawn of the American revolution, when the rights of conscience began to be established, the Morning Star of Christ's second coming, disappeared from the view of the world, to be succeeded by the increasing brightness of the Sun of Righteousness and all the promised glory of the latter day.

5. And thus the full revelation of Christ, in its first degree, was completed; which was according to that remarkable prophecy of Christopher Love, (who was beheaded under Cromwell,) "Out of thee, O England, shall a bright star arise, whose light and voice shall make the heavens to quake, and knock under with submission to the blessed Jesus.

XX.

1. After Mother's decease, the gift and appointment of God, for the lead and protection of the Believers, rested upon Elder James Whittaker, who was freely acknowledged by the whole Society as their Elder. Under his ministration, the work continued and increased, in purging away sin and uncleanness, and promoting union and harmony among those who believed and had set out to obey the Gospel, in reproving the disobedient, strengthening the weak, and confirming the faithful; till, having finished his labors, he departed this life at Enfield, in the State of Connecticut, on the 20th day of July, 1787, being in the 37th year of his age. He was born at Oldham, near Manchester, England, February 28th, 1751.

2. Elder John Hocknell (the last of those from Europe who were called Fathers) survived Elder James many years; and deceased at Watervliet, February, 1799, being 76 years of age.

3. But, after the decease of Elder James, the leading gift, in the visible administration, descended upon those who had received the Gospel in America, and was particularly vested in two, namely, Joseph Meacham and Lucy Wright, who, according to the special gift and appointment of God, were known and acknowledged by all to stand in the spiritual relation of a joint parentage to the whole visible body of the Believers. Through their special labors, the Believers were gathered together into families, according to the revelation of God respecting the Church of Christ, in the true order of the Gospel, which order was established in the year 1792. About four years after, Elder Joseph (having finished his work) deceased, at New-Lebanon August the 16th, 1796, aged 54 years. He was born at Enfield, Connecticut, February 22, 1742.

4. Father Joseph was succeeded by Mother Lucy Wright, as first in the ministry. Under her administration, large accessions were made to the different societies of Believers in the Eastern States, and several permanent societies were established in the States of Ohio and Kentucky. She having finished her work, deceased at Watervliet, Albany County, N. Y., February 7th, 1821, aged 61 years. She was born in Pittsfield, Berkshire County, Mass., February 5, 1760.

 

XXI.

1. From the beginning of the work in America, in the year 1780, until about the year 1787, among the subjects of it, there was little to be seen or heard but the outcry of convicted souls, laboring under the power of God, and roaring like the sound of many waters and mighty thunderings against the man of sin, and all that is of the world, the lust of the flesh. the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life; shaking and trembling; prophesying or speaking with new tongues; singing and dancing; leaping and shouting, day and night; with such various supernatural effects of the power of God, as appeared to the blind spectators of this world like the most unaccountable confusion.

2. But such as were in the work, knew what those things meant, and felt therein the greatest order and harmony, it being to them the gift and work of God for the time then present; they knew that nothing would be shaken thereby, but those things that must be shaken out, before the "kingdom of God" could be established in the soul. Hence these operations bore the strongest evidence that the world was actually come to an end, (at least to those who were the subjects of them,) and the day of judgment commenced. (See Luke 17:21. & 1 Cor. 10:11).

3. But, when they had found a sufficient degree of mortification and death to the life and influence of a corrupt nature, and separation from the spirit of the world, the scene changed, and such righteousness, peace, and order followed, as had never before been established on this earth, since man was created.

XXII.

1. During the progress of this remarkable change, the testimony was entirely withdrawn from the world. Believers had all they were able to do, to gather together, and organize the society in its various branches, and establish the true order of government, with the necessary rules and regulations for protection. Therefore, though the men of the world, generally, have been obliged to acknowledge that the visible fruits were good, yet the real internal work from which those fruits were produced, was wholly hid from their eyes. And, though some have ignorantly tried to ascribe these evidently good effects to some secret evil cause; yet every reasonable person must grant, that an evil tree cannot bring forth good fruit.

2. Consequently, that testimony which is productive of faithfulness, justice, righteousness, and every virtue, in relation to things both temporal and spiritual, must have proceeded from the eternal Fountain of truth and goodness. Therefore, the fruits and effects of the present Gospel of Christ, are justly to be considered as a standing evidence of the real character of Mother and the Elders, and of all those who have been leaders in the work, whatever wicked and unreasonable men may insinuate to the contrary.

3. The testimony was withdrawn from the world about the year 1785, and was rarely opened to any until about the year 1798; after which, there were a few small openings, in different places, to such as were in a special manner awakened; but nothing very remarkable appeared in the order of providence, to open the way for the spreading of the Gospel, until about the beginning of the present century.

XXIII.

1. In the year 1801, an extraordinary work of God began in Kentucky and the adjacent States, which prepared the way for the testimony of the Gospel to be opened in this western country, in the year 1805.

2. Accordingly, on the first day of January, 1805, three messengers, namely, John Meacham, Benjamin S. Youngs, and Issachar Bates were chosen and sent by the movings of the Spirit and union of the community, from the Church at New-Lebanon, to the people of the revival in Kentucky and the adjacent States, and were cordially received by a number of the first leading characters in the revival, and opposed by others.

3. A general account of this extraordinary work in Kentucky, and the parts adjacent, from the year 1801, until the year 1805, may be seen in a pamphlet published by Richard M'Nemar, 1807, entitled, 'The Kentucky Revival'; with an account of the entrance and progress of the testimony, and the opposition it received from false teachers. Since that time, the work has continued to increase both north and south of the river Ohio; and the testimony has been firmly established in the hearts of many hundreds in those regions, and the work still continues to flourish.

XXIV.

1. Since the opening of the Gospel in the parts of the country aforesaid, the minds of mankind have been greatly stirred up, both by the way of opposition and inquiry; and many are struck with astonishment to see such effects produced by means which to human wisdom seem so inadequate: i.e. to see so many persons of good information, and of upright character, and even eminent for their piety, renounce the honors, riches, and pleasures of the present life, with all their hopes of salvation upon their former principles, to find their relation to a people whose faith is said to be founded upon the testimony of a despised woman.

2. But souls who are truly convinced of sin, and are willing to have salvation on any terms, will not stumble at God's manner of dispensing it; and many such there are at this day, who, like the tender branch of the good olive, manifest, by their fervent prayers and tears, under the pressure of an evil nature, that the summer of their redemption is "nigh, even at the door."

3. Therefore, for the sake of these, and all other honest inquirers after truth, the foregoing pages have been written for their information, with a fervent desire that all such may learn that "Now is come salvation, and strength, and the kingdom of our God, and the power of his Christ," according to the promises of God: and that all such may come, that will come, and find salvation from all sin, and strength and power over the propensities of a fallen and sinful nature.

4. And of this way and work of salvation and redemption, all the faithful members of the Community of Believers in Christ's second appearing, are living and practical witnesses, and lie open to the view and examination of all candid inquirers after truth.

 

Approved by the leading authority of the United Society.

Attest. BENJAMIN S. YOUNGS,
CALVIN GREEN.
March, 1855.

Published by the Shakers in their book,   “Testimony of Christ's Second Appearing”
4th edition, 1856;  APPENDIX

 


 

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