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service, is not now known, but it was about the year 1773. His first communication in the
ministry was a revival of that prophetic declaration of Isaiah, "Strangers shall stand and feed your flocks, and the sons of the aliens shall be your ploughmen and your vine-dressers." His early testimonies, as a minister, were mostly short; but being delivered in the renewed openings and authority of the Word of Life, they were to edification, and give satisfactory evidence that he was rightly qualified for that important service. In 1775, he took his seat in the Meeting of Ministers and Elders, as an approved minister. Being careful to occupy with the talents which he had received, he was favoured to experience an increase of his gift, and to be made an able minister of the New Testament, "not of the letter but of the spirit."
In the 7th Month, 1775, he married, to his second wife, Martha, the daughter of Thomas Cash, of Morley, and sister to Thomas Cash of the same place, of whom there is an account in the tenth volume of "Piety Promoted." By this wife he had seven children, four of whom died in their infancy, and three of them survived him.
Between 1775 and 1781, under the influence of a great degree of sympathy, and in the love of the gospel, he addressed several letters to Frances Dodgson, who was at that time under deep spiritual trial and depression. Most, if not
all, of these letters, will be found in this publication; and as the language of encouragement in them is peculiarly strong, it is thought that the following short notice of the friend to whom they were written, will not be unacceptable to the reader.
FRANCES DODSHON was descended from a respectable family near Leek, and was born in 1714. Her parents were possessed of a considerable estate, and were in profession with the church of England. She possessed a good understanding, and had been educated in all those accomplishments which were deemed necessary to her rank in society. About the twentieth year of her age, she was so fully and availing convinced of the principles of truth as professed by Friends, that in the most trying seasons of her life, as she was often heard to say, the foundation of those principles could never be shaken. Soon after being united in membership with the Society of Friends, she was called to the work of the ministry, for which she was well qualified by her Lord and Master. Whilst health and ability were afforded, she laboured much in the exercise of her gift, travelling into most parts of England, Scotland, and Wales. Her openings were clear in the doctrine and authority of the gospel, and communicated with lively zeal. She was frequently led to speak to the states of individuals; and there is no doubt but her labours were blessed
to the spiritual help and edification of many. the course of her warfare through this vale of tears, she had, both spiritually and temporally, to combat with many afflictions; yet in all, and through all, she was hiddenly supported by Him, in whom she had most assuredly believed. Her deepest trials were occasioned by the apprehension that she was forsaken by the Beloved of her soul; yet was the language of a deeply tried servant expressive of the exercise of her spirit: "My righteousness I hold fast, and will not let it go." The following extract from one of her letters to John Thorp, will show the tried state of her mind:
Dear and truly sympathizing Friend,
I seem to myself guilty of ingratitude in being so long silent, after receiving so valuable and encouraging an epistle from thee, which I often read with close attention, and with humble and fervent desire to be helped to lay hold of some degree of that living faith and hope, thou so fully and feelingly expressest thyself to be favoured with on my behalf, and which I endeavour to encourage my drooping spirit in concluding would not be the case with thee, or my dear friend Sarah Taylor, or any of the living in Israel, if I were really, (as I am painfully tempted to fear) totally cast off or forsaken by the Father of Mercies. Yet, although I consider things in the most favourable light my afflicted state will admit, and esteem it, as I justly ought to do, a favour which I cannot be too thankful for, to be thus under the notice, tender regard, and deep travel in
spirit of many faithful souls, it is beyond expression what I yet suffer, for want of the evidence, or revival of living faith and hope in my own mind, that the Lord will again return, and show mercy to my disconsolate, imprisoned soul, which goes mourning all the day long, and cannot be comforted, because the blessed Comforter, He who alone can deliver my soul, seems yet afar off; and the cruel accuser almost continually at hand, to bear down and frustrate my utmost endeavours to draw near to the Fountain of help and strength, to be enabled to lay hold of hope and faith to resist the fiery darts of the wicked one. Oh! my dear friend, could I but hope that I am of the number thou mentionest of the Lord's chosen ones, whose names are written in the Book of Life, I should esteem no baptism too deep, nor any suffering too long, or too great to endure. But herein lies my great discouragement, that I seem, in my own painful apprehension, to suffer as an evil-doer, or one who, through inattention and want of due circumspection, has offended an all-gracious Being, and caused Him to withdraw His blessed presence, light, life, and holy Spirit; and oh! what in this stripped, desolate state has the poor soul to cleave to, or flee to for refuge and support, as the experienced Psalmist says, "If the foundations be destroyed, what can the righteous do?" They have not another to go unto, nor can expect preservation, comfort, or help, but from Him who they experimentally know hath the word of eternal life, and also the key of David, and alone ean open their shut-up state, and by His powerful voice say, even to the spiritually dead, "Come forth;" then, and not till then, can we feel our spirits quickened by
Him, who is of a truth the resurrection and the life of every truly living soul, that lives to and in Him.
Frances Dodshon lived to advanced age, and during the latter years of her life, she was, at seasons, by the power of Divine love and light, raised above the deep depression before described; and when of ability to attend meetings, was at times enabled to preach the gospel with life and power.
There is abundant cause to believe that, in the earlier as well as the latter stages of religious experience, our heavenly Father, in His wisdom and mercy, is often pleased to suffer His most approved servants to be deeply tried with an abasing sense of their helplessness and unworthiness; to withdraw the light of His countenance, and to leave them sorrowful and forlorn, and all with the gracious design of furthering the work of their sanctification. In these seasons of tribulation, they may be strongly tempted to listen to the accusations of the enemy, and to distrust the Lord's faithfulness and love; but whether these trials originate in natural or spiritual causes, John Thorp's letters to Frances Dodshon will, there is no doubt, long continue to cheer and animate many a doubting and fearful pilgrim.
John Thorp did not believe himself to be called to travel so much in the work of the ministry as many others of his fellow-labourers