SHAKER TESTIMONIES of the Life, Character, Revelations and Doctrines of Mother Ann Lee, and the Elders with Her.
Published by the Shakers in 1816; Reprinted 1888.  
        The Gospel Preached to Departed Spirits

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“Testimonies of Mother Ann Lee and the Elders”

Authentic Excerpt from: Chapter XXVII, pages 185-192

The Gospel Preached to Departed Spirits



1. Mother Ann, and the Elders with her, uniformly taught the doctrine of a free offer of the gospel to all souls, whether in this world, or in the world of spirits.  That none could be deprived of the offer of salvation because they had left the world before Christ made his appearance; or because they had lived in some remote part of the earth, where the sound of the gospel had never reached their ears.  Their labors in the work of regeneration were not confined to this world, but extended to the world of spirits, and their travail and sufferings for the salvation of departed souls, were often distressing, beyond description.

2. Cornelius Thayer, of Patridgefield, came to see the Church, soon after the opening of the gospel, and embraced the testimony.  After he had confessed his sins, and received the promise of eternal life, Mother Ann told him to read a chapter in the Revelations, concerning the woman clothed with the sun.  Elder James read, in the Epistle of Peter, concerning the gospel being preached to those who were dead, that they might be judged according to men in the flesh, and live according to God, in the spirit. He said, “The gospel is preached to souls who have left the body.” And Mother said, “I see thousands of the dead rising and coming to judgment now, in this present time.” Cornelius Thayer.

3. Not long after the opening of the gospel at Watervliet, Mother Ann was speaking to a large number of the Believers, concerning those who were called by the gospel, and of their bearing and travailing for other souls, and she said, “If there is but one called out of a generation, and that soul is faithful, it will have to travail and bear for all its generation; for the world will be redeemed by generations.”  Elder William Lee, and Elder James Whittaker often spoke in the same manner, concerning the redemption of souls. Hannah Cogswell.

4. Mother spoke, oftentimes, when under great sufferings, of seeing the spirits in prison, and often spoke to them.   Sometimes she used to speak to them in a very powerful manner, and sharply reprove them, and bade them shake off their bonds.  At other times she would tell of seeing unbodied souls, laboring for the power of God; and say that such were in a travel. — Then she would smile, and speak to them; but often spoke in an unknown tongue. Hannah Kendall.

5. One particular time, at Ashfield, Mother was under great sufferings; and after she was released, she said that she saw an angel go out of heaven, and release souls who had been confined in prison a long time. Hannah Kendall.

6. One morning, at Watervliet, Mother Ann said, “Last night I was under great sufferings, and a great number of the dead came to me, and some of them embraced the gospel; but others chose rather to go to hell than to confess their sins.” Lucy Prescott.

7. At Ashfield,*{* in 1783} in the presence of many Believers who were there, Mother said, “I have seen a vision; I saw myself flying up a great gulf — I had great wings; and, with the ends of my wings I uncovered the dead, who lay on the banks of the gulf.”  Again she said, “I have seen a great number (who had been dead) laboring in the worship of God.   They had come out of great tribulation; there is no danger of these, for they have had hell enough; but man in the flesh, is always in danger.” Joseph Markham, Senr.

8. Again Mother Ann said, “I have seen, in vision, beautiful souls of men, arrayed in white, all in the resurrection, there is no fear of their going back.  As for hell, they have had enough of it; and, to come back into this world they cannot; but, poor man in the flesh is always in danger.” Hannah Goodrich.

9. At Harvard, Mother Ann said, “I have been under great sufferings today, and have seen many of the dead arise, and they were dressed in white robes, and received palms.  These will never fall; but poor man in the flesh is always exposed.” Anna Cogswell, 1st.

10. Soon after Jane Kendall departed this life, Mother Ann spoke to Sarah Kendall, her sister, and said, “I have seen Jane in the world of spirits, and she was praising God in the dance.”  She also said, “I have seen young Jonathan Wood among the dead, and he was like claps of thunder among them, waking them up.”* {*Jonathan had then lately deceased } Sarah Kendall.

11. At Nathan Goodrich's, in Hancock, Mother Ann rose one morning and said, “I have been all night with the dead, and I heard the archangel sound the trumpet; and I heard Ezekiel's voice roar from one prison to another, preaching to the dead.”  This was not long after Ezekiel Goodrich deceased. Thankful Barce.

12. At Watervliet, in 1784, while a large number of Believers were assembled together, Father William Lee came into the room, and being filled with the Holy Ghost, he said, “O Brethren and Sisters, labor to make a good use of your day and privilege, and be thankful for the visitation of God to you.   I have seen Ezekiel Goodrich in the world of spirits, whose voice roared like thunder among the dead; they gather to him, and are thankful to hear the word of God.   And if you do not receive the word of God which is spoken to you, the dead will; for there is not one word of God lost that ever was spoken.” David Slosson.

13. David Slosson, having visited the Church at Ashfield, and being about to return home, went into Mother Ann's room, and was placed in a chair before her; the Elders also being present.  David felt himself as in the presence of God, and under great weight of body and spirit; but knew not the cause.  Mother looked him full in the face, and then turned and looked on the Elders without speaking.  After a short pause, she said, “David you know not what you feel.  I see the dead around you, whose visages are ghastly and very awful.   Their faces almost touch thine.  If you did but see what I see you would be surprised.”  She then labored in the gift of God, and again looked David full in the face, and with an air of joy and love, said, “Child, be not discouraged, for I see the glory of God in thy right eye, as bright as the sun; its form is like the new moon.  Be of good comfort, and be not cast down; for the dead gather to thee for the gospel which thou hast received.” David Slosson.

14. One day, while Father William Lee was lying on his bed, under great sufferings, Abijah Wooster went and kneeled down by his bed side, and, while on his knees, he was exercised with peculiar operations.   Mother Ann and Elder James being present, Abijah made mention of the sensations he felt. “Yea, Yea,” said Mother, “I understand you;" then turning to Elder James, she said, "Abijah feels many lifeless states, and he don't know what is the matter with him.”  Then turning to Abijah, she said, “You are not going into the kingdom without the progeny from which you sprung; and when you labor, and obtain gifts of God, they obtain gifts of God; and when you find mortification they find it too; they travel as you do.” Abijah Wooster.

15. One day Hannah Kendall, being very unwell, went into the room where Mother Ann was; Mother said, “I do not wonder that you feel as you do, for you have been bearing for the dead. I see a tall soul right behind you now.” Hannah Kendall.

16.When Mother Ann was at William and Hezekiah Morey's, in Norton, she said to them, “I saw your father,* { *He died before the gospel opened in America} about a week ago, in blackness and darkness, and before we left the house, he desired the prayers of the Church; and I saw your natural mother**, with her mouth wide open, in prayer to God for him {**She died in the faith}.  Since that time, he has appeared to me again, and has risen from the dead, and come into the first heavens; and is traveling on to the second and third heavens.” Ezekiel Morey.

17. While Mother Ann and the Elders were at Ashfield, Lydia Mathewson went to see them, in company with her husband, — Philip Mathewson.  Lydia, in conversation with Mother, spoke concerning Thomas Mathewson, her husband's father, who had been dead a number of years.  She told Mother that he was a very senseless man as to the things of God, and appeared to have little or no sense about his soul, which formerly caused her great tribulation.

18. Soon after this, Mother spoke to Lydia, as follows; “When you spoke to me concerning Thomas Mathewson, I felt his lost state, and labored for Him as faithfully as if it had been for my own soul.  And one evening, when the people assembled at the meeting-house, I stayed in the dwelling-house; and I felt the power of God come upon me, which moved my hand up and down like the motion of wings; and soon I felt as if I had wings on both hands; and I saw them, and they appeared as bright as gold.  And I let my hands go as the power directed them, and these wings parted the darkness to where souls lay, in the ditch of hell, and I saw their lost state.”

19. “Elder James was at the same time preaching to a number of the world, in the meeting- house; and I saw a number of the dead who were willing to hear; and they arose at the sound of the trumpet of the gospel, through the preaching of Elder James.  And Thomas Mathewson arose, and went into the meeting-house.  After this I felt a gift to go into the meeting-house without any knowledge of what I was going for; but, being led by the power of God, I went through the assembly and found Philip Mathewson lying on the floor, apparently like a dying man.  His father's state had fallen upon him.  I took him by the hand, and told him to rise up, and he obeyed; but it was some time before he was fully released from that state which had fallen upon him.  But his father united with the testimony of the gospel.” Lydia Mathewson.

20. The case of Philip Mathewson was fresh in the memories of those who were there when this record was first written in 1816.   He assembled with the rest of the Believers in the meeting- house at Ashfield, while in meeting he was taken under great distress of body and soul, so that he appeared like a person suffering the pangs of death.  Mother came into the meeting-house and looked at him and said, “He is bearing the last pains of death and hell for his father, who has been hanging about me the past two weeks, he is now released.”   And as she went out of the room, she continued saying, “He is released! He is released!” Elizabeth Davis.

21. Soon after the gospel opened, W.C., of Richmond, died, having previously heard the testimony of the gospel, but did not obey it, though his wife and part of his family did.  Mother, afterward, speaking of W. said, “I saw him in the same hell with murderers, as hot as a glowing oven, for defiling his own body, and going to dumb beasts.” Hannah Goodrich, 1st.

22. Some time in December, 1783, after Mother Ann and the Elders returned from the eastward, a large number of the Believers were at Watervliet, and they took their lodging on the floor.  Some time in the latter part of the night some of them awoke, and heard Mother laboring with the dead.   Sometimes she spoke in her own tongue, and sometimes in other tongues.  Then she sung out in these words, “Come, O ye dead; Come, O ye dead!”  She then spoke to some of the Elders, and said, “I feel the jaws of death grasping upon the people, – they do not know what we have to go through, I believe you had better call them up, and have them go into labors.” Nathan Tiffany.

23. The winter after Mother Ann and Elders returned to Watervliet from their eastern journey, they were in great and incessant labors, made to purge out sin, and overcome all evil.  One evening the people were assembled at the meeting-house, among whom were Asa Patten and Joshua Allen of Tyringham, John Patten and many others.  The Elders came forth with a sharp testimony against sin, showing the necessity of every soul’s waking up, and laboring to feel their union with God.  The same night Elder James was taken under excessive sufferings, which continued through the night.  The following evening he came into meeting and addressed the Brethren and Sisters in the following words: “I would be glad to speak a few words; though I would not speak any thing that is too hard for you to understand.   I believe that I was six hours, last night, in the belly of hell!  Indeed, I know that I was, and did preach to the spirits in prison, and I never knew, until then what that passage in Scripture signified which saith that, ‘One day with the Lord is a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day.’  But now I can testify, by what I have seen and felt, that a soul that has been in hell but one day, it appears to him like a thousand years; for the horror of souls in hell is so extreme, and their banishment from God so great, that they cannot measure time.”  “It is called the ‘bottomless pit,’ and souls in it feel themselves continually sinking, further and further from God; and what still increases their torment, they can see no way out.  If a man should live to the age of Methuselah, and go through all the miseries of this life, it could not be compared with his suffering one day in hell!   When I saw the state of the damned, I shuddered at the awful prospect.” Asa Patten.

End of Excerpt 8


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