The Story of ELIZABETH ASHBRIDGE (1713-1755)

An excerpt from the Journal of Elizabeth Ashbridge

I now began to think of my relations in Pennsylvania, whom I had not yet seen.  My husband gave me liberty to visit them, and I obtained a certificate from the priest, in order that, if I made any stay, I might be received as a member of the church wherever I came. … When I came to Trenton ferry, I felt no small mortification on hearing that my relations were all Quakers, and what was worst of all, that my aunt was a preacher.  I was exceedingly prejudiced against this people, and often wondered how they could call themselves Christians.  I repented my coming, and was almost inclined to turn back; yet as I was so far on my journey, I proceeded, though I expected but little comfort from my visit.  How little was I aware that it would bring me to the knowledge of the Truth!

I went from Trenton to Philadelphia by water, and from thence to my uncle’s on horseback. … I had scarcely been three hours in the house before my opinion of these people began to alter.  I perceived a book lying upon the table, and being fond of reading took it up; my aunt observed me and said, “Cousin, that is a Quaker’s book.”  She saw I was not a Quaker, and supposed I would not like it.  I made her no answer, but queried with myself, what can these people write about?  I have heard that they deny the Scriptures, and have no other Bible than George Fox’s Journal — denying, also, all the holy ordinances.  But before I had read two pages, my heart burned within me, and for fear I should be seen, I went into the garden.  I sat down, and as the piece was short, read it before I returned, though I was often obliged to stop to give vent to my tears.  The fullness of my heart produced the involuntary exclamation, “O my God, must I, if ever I come to the knowledge of thy Truth, be of this man’s opinion, who has sought thee as I have done; and must I join this people, to whom a few hours ago I preferred the Papists.  O, thou God of my salvation, and of my life, who hast abundantly manifested thy long suffering and tender mercy, in redeeming me as from the lowest hell, I beseech thee to direct me in the right way, and keep me from error; so will I perform my covenant, and think nothing too near to part with for thy name’s sake.  O happy people, thus beloved of God!”


… The next day, being the first of the week, I was desirous of going to church, which was distant about four miles; but being a stranger, and having no one to go with me, I gave up all thoughts of that, and as most of the family were going to meeting, I went there with them.  As we sat in silence, I looked over the meeting, and said to myself, “How like fools these people sit; how much better would it be to stay at home, and read the Bible, or some good book, than to come here and go to sleep.”  As for me I was very drowsy; and while asleep, had nearly fallen down.  This was the last time I ever fell asleep in a meeting.  I now began to be lifted up with spiritual pride, and to think myself better than they; but this disposition of mind did not last long….

I [had] never read any of their books, never went to one meeting; besides, I had heard such accounts of them, as made me think that, of all societies, they were the worst.  But he who knows the sincerity of the heart, looked on my weakness with pity;  I was permitted to see my error, and shown that these were the people I ought to join. ….

Of these things I let no one know.  I feared discovery, and did not even appear like a Friend.

I loved to be at meetings, but did not love to be seen going on week-days, and therefore went to them from my school, through the woods.  Notwithstanding all my care, the neighbors who were not Friends, soon began to revile me with the name of Quaker; adding, that they supposed I intended to be a fool, and turn preacher.  Thus did I receive the same censure, which, about a year before, I had passed on one of the handmaidens of the Lord in Boston.  I was so weak, that I could not bear the reproach, and in order to change their opinion, went into greater excess of apparel than I had freedom to do, even before I became acquainted with Friends.  In this condition, I continued until my husband came, and then began the trial of my faith.

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