Agnes Beaumont (1652-1720)

Background to the Text

Two MS copies of Beaumont's Narrative can be found in the British Library, Egerton MS 2414 and Egerton 2128. The former was used as the copy-text for G.B. Harrison’s edition of the Narrative of the Persecution of Agnes Beaumont (London: Constable, 1929); see also Vera Camden, ed., Narrative of the Persecution of Agnes Beaumont (East Lansing, MI: Colleagues Press, 1992). MS 2414 is in a thin, bound volume, untitled, but with a statement on the first page recto after the flyleaf, in a 19th c. hand: "Written by one Agnes ——— (Beaumont) of Edworth, Beds. intimately acquainted with John Bunyan, & to whose meetings she went contrary to her father’s wishes, he objecting to his daughter attending such. She mentions his name in several parts of the MS." This page and the flyleaf have been added to the original manuscript when it was bound. The original MS is on 37 pp of 12mo size paper. Some notes on Bunyan are on the last page. MS 2128 is a fair copy, taken from a MS of the Narrative once in the possession of a Mrs Kenwrick at Bavant in Hampshire. A title page was created for the bound volume and reads: "Divine Appearances. Or a very Wonderfull Account of the Dealings of God with Mrs. Agnes Beaumount. Who was afterwards married to Mr. Story, a Merchant at High-Gate. Taken from a Coppy transcribed from a MS.S in the hands of Mrs. Kenwrick at Bavant in Hampshire." Second title on the first page reads: "The Wonderfull Dealings of God with Mrs. Agnes Beaumont, written by her self." Each page was paginated originally, but at some point they were marked through and the pagination was by folio pages only. Thus, individual pages total 93; folios are 48, including front matter. Whether MS 2414 was the original from which 2128 was taken is not clear. But it is clear that a manuscript of the document circulated in the West Country in the early 1730s for Anne Cator Steele was reading Beaumont's narrative in bed on the night of 17 November 1730 (see her diary entry on this site): "I was reading Aleins Alarm to ye unconverted by which I was both affected & confirm’d in my hopes that I am realy converted . . . I sat up late to read a relation of some Experiences & great deliverances of one Agnes Beaumont that lived in Bunians time, by which I was affected." Eventually, Samuel James had possession of a copy of Beaumont's Narrative, either one of these manuscripts or a copy no longer extant (possibly the copy read by Mrs. Steele) from which he published his edited version of the Narrative in Gracious Dealings (1760). Three additional paragraphs at the end of 2128 are not present in 2414 or in James's Gracious Dealings:

After this Report there was another, raised in another place in the Coiuntry, and that was, Mr. Bunyan was a Widower, and he gave me Councel to poyson my Father that so he might have me to be his Wife, and this we agreed upon as we rid along to Gongey. and truly this did sometimes make me worry, as the other things did make me sad. and not long after it was said, we were married, but they were mistaken for he had a good Wife before. (end of p. 92; f. 47v)

I could not but tell this News to several my Self, and it did serve to divert me sometimes.

Now I thought surely Mr. Ferey had done, but the next Sumer after my Father died, there happen’d to be a ffire in the Town, and no Body could tell how this ffire came. But Mr. Ferey did secretly affirm it, that I did let the house on ffire. But the Lord knows I know nothing of it till I heard that dolefull cry of ffire in the Town. (92-3, f. 47v-48r).

For a biographical summary of Beaumont, click here.

The Singular Experience and Great Sufferings of Mrs. Agnes Beaumont, who was born at Edworth*, in the county of Bedford, as written by herself. [1]

Since I was first awakened, the Lord has been pleased to exercise me with many and great trials, but, blessed be his gracious name, he hath caused all to work together for my advantage, and given me occasion to say, It is good for me that I have been afflicted, Psalm cxix. 71. O! how great has the kindness of the Lord been to me in afflictive dispensations; never leaving me without his teachings, and comfortable preference, when in the midst of them! I have often observed the more trouble I have had, either from within or from without, the more I have been found of God’s presence, when I have been helped to keep close to him by frequent fervent prayer; and, O! how sweet is his presence to a poor soul, when surrounded with sorrows on every side!

For my part I can say with David, I have found trouble and sorrow: God only knows the sore temptations which I have waded through, some outward, but more inward. O the fiery darts which have been shot from hell against me! But, on the other hand, none knows, but God, that sweet communion and consolation which he hath graciously offered me, in those hours of trouble, because I found it drove me nearer to himself, and the throne of his grace. The lord has made such seasons praying, heart-searching, and soul-humbling times.

But there is one thing more especially, in which I have great cause to admire the goodness of God, namely, that before a trial came, I usually had strong consolation from above, insomuch that I have expected some trouble would ensue, and it hath often proved according to my thoughts. one scripture after another would run in my mind for several days together, suggesting something that I was shortly to meet with, and prepare for, which has drove me into some secret corner or other, to cry to the Lord to be with me; and, O how has he in such seasons, as it were, taken me into the mount! My soul has been so raised and comforted, as if for awhile out of the body. Many times in a day has he sent me into his banquetting-house, and his banner over me was love, under which indulgence being still kept in a humble frame, I never was denied the preference of my Lord, when waiting at the throne of his grace, which rendered those seasons so delightful that I longed for their return. It cannot be expressed what sweetness there is in his presence, and in one promise applied by his Spirit to the soul. It turns weeping into rejoicing, as, blessed be God, I have experienced, in that great and fiery trial of my father’s death, which I am now to relate.

About a quarter of a year before the Lord was pleased to remove my father, I had great and frequent enjoyments of God, and he was pleased to pour out a spirit of grace and supplication upon me, in a very wonderful manner, both day, and night. There was scarce a corner in the house, barns, stables, closes or hedges, where I did not pour out my soul to God. And sometimes ere I have rose from my knees, I have been as if in heaven, and as if my very heart would break with joy and consolation, which hath caused floods of tears, with admiration at the love of Christ, to such a great sinner as myself! I have frequently wept and cried for joy, at which times some who saw me would say, Why do you grieve so, Agnes? are you minded to kill yourself with sorrow? When, indeed, mine were tears of joy and not of grief, flowing from a sense of the love of Christ to my soul. Before the Lord brought this approaching trial, I had many scriptures, to shew me I had some difficulty to meet with, at which I sometimes thought my heart would sink, but presently I had one promise or another to bear me up; I concluded I had some hard thing to meet with from the following word, which frequently darted into my mind, Psalm 1. 15. And call upon me in the day of trouble, I will deliver thee, and thou shalt glorify me. Wherever I went, this scripture followed me. I concluded it must point at something future, because for the present I found more joy than trouble. Also that word was much on my thoughts, Isa. xliii. 2. When thou passeth through the waters I will be with thee, and through the rivers they shall not overflow thee, &c. With many others of the same nature, in which I saw contained, both bitter and sweet.

I had also many dreams, some of which I believe were from God. In some of them I have had fears of losing my life, or narrowly escaping with it: in others, that men run after me to murder me. And, in some others I have thought myself tried before a judge and jury, and barely came off with my life. One of the dreams was very remarkable, which I told to a friend, who reminded me of it after my father’s death. I thought there grew an old apple-tree in my father’s yard full of fruit, and one night, about midnight, there came a sudden storm of wind, and blew down this tree. At the fight hereof I was sorely troubled, running to it, as it lay on the ground, in order to lift it up, that it might grow again in its former place, but, though I lifted, first with one arm and then the other, with all my might, I could not so much as stir it; therefore leaving it turned up by the roots, I ran to my brother, and called his men, but when they came, they could not replant it; and it sorely grieved me, to think this tree should be blown down, while others were left standing.

Soon after this dream, there was a church meeting at Gam’gay,§ about a week before which I was much in prayer, especially for two things: the one that the Lord would incline the heart of my father to let me go, which he sometimes refused, and, in those days, it was like death to me to be kept from such a meeting; I have found by experience, that to pray hard, was the most successful method of obtaining my father’s consent, for when I have not thus prayed, I have found it very difficult to prevail. The other request was, that the Lord would go with me, and that I might enjoy his presence there, at his table, that, as in many times past, it might be a sealing ordinance to my soul, and that I might have such a fight, of a bleeding and dying Saviour, as might melt my heart, and enlarge it in love, to his name.

The Lord was pleased to grant me my requests. Upon asking my father, indeed, he seemed unwilling at first, but upon my pleading with him, and telling him that I would do all my work in the morning before I went out, and return home at night, I gained this consent. Friday being come, I prepared every thing ready to set out. My father enquired who carried me? I told him I thought Mr. Wilson of Hitchin; to which he said nothing. I went to my brother’s and waited, expecting to meet Mr. Wilson; but he not coming it cut me to the heart, and fearing I should not go, I burst into tears, for my brother had told me that his horses were all at work, and that he could not spare on more than what he and my sister were to ride on, and, it being in the depth of winter, I could not walk thither.

Now I was afraid that all my prayers on this account were lost; in my way seemed to be hedged up with thorns. I waited with many a longing look, and with a sorrowful heart, under my sad disappointment. O thought I that the Lord would but put it into the heart of some person, to come and convey me thither. Thus I still waited, but with my heart full of fears. At last, quite unexpected came Mr. Bunyan. The sight of him caused a mixture both of joy and of grief. I was glad to see him, but was afraid he would not be willing to take me up behind him, and how to ask him I knew not. At length I desired my brother to do it, which he did; but Mr. Bunyan answered, with some degree of roughness, No; I will not carry her. These words were cutting indeed, and made me weep bitterly: my brother perceiving my trouble said, If you do not carry her you will break her heart: but he made the same reply.** adding, Your father will be grievous angry if I should. I will venture that, said I. And thus, with much entreaty, he was prevailed on; and O how glad was I to think I was going.

Soon after we set out, my father came to my brother’s, and asked his men, who his daughter rode behind? they said Mr. Bunyan: upon hearing this his anger was greatly enflamed; he ran down the close, thinking to overtake me and pull me off the horse, but we were gone out of his reach.

I had not rode far, before my heart began to be lifted with pride, at the thoughts of riding behind this servant of the Lord, and was pleased if any looked after us. Indeed I thought myself very happy that day; first, that it pleased God to make way for my going, and then that I should have the honour to ride behind Mr. Bunyan. My pride soon had a fall, for in coming to Gam’gay, we were met by a clergyman who knew us both; he looked very hard at us as we rode along, and soon after, raised a vile scandal upon us, though blessed be God, it was false.* ††

The meeting began not long after we got thither; and the Lord made it a sweet season to my soul indeed. O it was a feast of fat things! I sat under his shadow with great delight! When at the Lord’s table, I found such a return of prayer, that I was scarce able to bear up under it. I was, as it were, carried up to heaven, and had such a sight of the Saviour, as even broke my heart in pieces. O! how I then longed to be with Christ! How willingly would I have died in the place, and gone immediately to glory! A sense of my sins, and of his dying love, made me love him, and long to be with him. I have often thought of his goodness, in his remarkable visit to my soul that day, but he knew the temptations that I was to meet with, the very same night, and a few days after. I have seen the bowels of his compassion towards me, in these fresh manifestations of his love, before I was tried. This was infinite condescension indeed.

The meeting being ended, I began to think how I should get home, for Mr. Bunyan was not to go by Edworth, and having promised to return that night, I was filled with many fears lest I should break my word. I enquired of several persons if they went my way: but no one could assist me except a young woman, who lived near a mile wide of my father’s house. As the road was very dirty and deep, I was afraid to venture behind her; but at last I did, and she set me down about a quarter of a mile from my home, from when I hastened through the dirt, hoping to be there before my father was in bed; but, on coming to the door, I found it locked, and seeing no light my heart began to sink, for I perceived what I was likely to meet with. However I called to my father, who answered, Who is there? to which I said, ‘Tis I, father, come home wet and dirty, pray let me in, He replied, Where you have been all day you may go at night; and with many such sayings, he discovered great anger, because of my riding behind Mr. Bunyan, declaring that I should never come within his doors any more, unless I should promise never to go after that man again. I stood at the chamber window pleading to be let in; I begged, I cried, but all in vain, for instead of yielding to my importunity, he bid me gone form the window, or else he would rise and put me out of the yard. I then stood silent awhile, and that thought pierced my mind; how if I should come at last when the door is shut, and Christ should say unto me Depart! Matt. xxv. 10, 11, 12.

At length, seeing my father refused to let me in, it was put into my heart to spend that night in prayer. I could indeed have gone to my brother’s who lived about a quarter mile off, and where I might have proper accommodations. No, thought I, into the barn I will go, and cry to heaven, that Jesus Christ would not shut me out at the last day, and that I may have some fresh discoveries of his love to my soul. I did so, and, though naturally of a timorous temper, and many frightful things presented themselves to my mind, yet one scripture after another gave me encouragement. Such as Matt. vi. 6. Pray to thy Father which is in secret and thy Father which seeth in secret shall reward the openly. Also Jer. xxxiii. 3. Call upon me and I will answer thee, and shew thee great and mighty things which thou knowest not. And with many such good words I was comforted.

Being thus in the barn, and in a very dark night, I was again assaulted by satan; but having received strength from the Lord and his word, I spake out, (as I remember) saying, Satan, my Father hath thee in a chain; thou canst not hurt me. I then returned to the throne of grace; and, indeed, it was a blessed night to my soul, a night to be remembered to the end of my life, and I hope I shall never forget it; it was surely a night of prayer, yea, and of praise too, when the Lord was pleased to keep all fears from my heart. Surely he was with me in a wonderful manner! O the heart-ravishing visits he gave me! and that spirit of faith in prayer which he poured out upon me! It froze very hard that night, but I felt no cold, although the dirt was frozen on my shoes in the morning.

Whilst thus most delightfully engaged, that scripture came with mighty power on my soul, I Peter iv, 12. Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trial, which is to try you. This word, beloved, made such melody in my heart as is not to be expressed, but the rest of those words occasioned some dread; yet still that first word, beloved, founded louder than all the rest, and was much in my mind the whole night afterward. I saw that I was to meet in both bitter and sweet, when I directed my cries to the lord, to stand by and to strengthen me, which he graciously did with many a blessed promise, before the morning light; and to be the beloved of God was my mercy, whatever difficulties I endured; nevertheless, I began once to be a little dejected, being grieved to think that I should lose my father’s love, but this led me to the Lord, to beg that I might not lose his love too, and that good word was immediately given me, John xvi. 27. The Father himself loveth you. O blessed be God, thought I, then it is enough; do with me what seemeth the good!

When the morning light appeared, I peeped through the cracks of the barn, to watch my father’s opening the door. Presently he came out and locked it after him, which I thought looked very dark, apprehending from hence, he was resolved I should not go in, but still that word beloved, &c. sounded in my heart. He soon came in the barn, and seeing me in my riding dress, made a stand, when I thus addressed him; A good morning to you, father, I have had a cold night’s lodging here, but God has been good to me, else I should have had a worse. He said it was no matter. I prayed him to let me go in, saying, I hope, father, you are not angry with me, and kept following him about the yard, as he went to fodder the cows; notwithstanding this he would not regard me, but the more entreated him, the more his anger rose against me, declaring, that I should never enter his house again, unless I would promise, not to go into the meeting as long as he lived. I replied, Father my soul is of too much worth to do this; can you stand in my stead and answer for me at the great day? If so, I will obey you in this demand, as I do in all other things; yet I could not prevail.

At last, some of my brother’s men came into the yard, and, seeing my case, at their return, reported that their old master had shut Agnes out of doors. Upon hearing this my brother was greatly concerned, and came to my father, and endeavored to prevail with him to be reconciled, but he grew more angry with him than with me, and at last would not hear him; on which my brother said, Go come with me sister, you will catch your death with cold; but I refused, still hoping to be more successful in a farther application, I therefore continued following my father in the yard, crying and hanging about him, and saying, Pray father let me go in, &c. I have since wondered how I durst be thus bold, my father being of a hasty temper, insomuch that his anger has often made me glad to get out of his sight, though, when his passion was over, few exceeded him in good nature.

At length, I began to be faint and cold, it being a very sharp morning. I was also grieved, for being the occasion of keeping my father in the cold for so long, for he kept walking about the yard, and declared, that he would not go into the house while I was there. I therefore went to my brother’s, and obtained some refreshment and warmth; then I retired and poured out my soul to God, who was pleased to continue on me a spirit of grace and supplication, and forsook me not in this day of great trouble.

About noon I asked my sister to go with me to my father’s, which she readily did, and finding him in the house with the door locked, we went to the window. My sister said, Now father I hope your anger is over, and you will let my sister come in, while I burst out with many tears to see him so angry. I did not thing fit to mention all he said, but among other things he protested, that he would not give me one penny so long as he lived, no nor when he died neither, but that he would sooner leave his substance to a stranger than to me, &c. These expressions were cutting, and made my heart sink; thought I, what will become of me? To go to service and work hard is a new thing to me who am very young; what shall I do? yet still I thought I had a good God to go to, and that was then a very seasonable word, Psalm xxvii. 10. When my father and my mother forsake me, then the Lord will take me up.

Perceiving that my sister’s strong pleadings were vain, I desired my father to give me my bible, if he would not please to let me in; which he also refused, saying That he was resolved I should not have a penny nor a penny’s worth as long as he lived, &c. On this I went home with my sister, bitterly weeping, and withdrew into her chamber, where the Lord gave hopes of a better inheritance. O now I was willing to go to service, and to be stript of all for Christ! I saw that I had a better portion than that of silver or gold, and was enabled to believe I should never want.

My inclination was to go to my father once more, and sine he was so very angry both with my brother and sister, I concluded to go alone. Upon coming to the door I found it partly open, the key being on the outside, and my father within. I pushed the door gently and was about to enter, which he perceiving, ran hastily to shut it, and had I not instantly withdrew, one of my legs had been between the door and the threshold. I would not be so uncivil to my father, as to lock him into his own house, however, having this opportunity I took the key, intending when he was gone out, to venture in and lie at his mercy. After a while he came, and looked behind the house, and seeing me standing in a narrow passage by a pond, laid hold on me, saying, Hussey! give me the key quickly, or else I will throw you into the pond. I immediately resigned it with silence and sadness.

It appeared in vain to contend, I went down the closes to a wood side, with signs and groans nad a heart full of sorrow, when the scripture came again into my mind, Jer. xxxiii. 3. Call upon me and I will answer thee, and shew thee great and mighty things which thou knowest not. The night was dark, but I kept on to the wood where I poured out my soul to God with many tears. And that word also greatly comforted me, Psalm xxxiv. 15. The eyes of the Lord are upon the righteous, and his ears are open to their cry. I believed his ears were open to a disconsolate creature, such as myself, and that his heart was towards me. And that was a wonderful word at this time, Isaiah lxiii. 2. In all their affliction he was afflicted.§§

I staid in this place so long as gave great concern to my brother and sister, who had sent one of their men to know whether my father had let me in; and understanding he had not, they went about seeking me, but they could not find me. At length having spread my case before the Lord, I returned to my brother’s, fully determined not to yield to my father’s request, if I begged my bread about the streets. I was so strongly fixed in the resolution that I thought nothing could move me; yet alas! like Peter, I was a poor weak creature, as will presently be seen.

This was Saturday night. The next morning I said to my brother, let us call on my father as we go to the meeting, but, upon his telling me this would but further provoke him, we forebore. As we went along he said, Sister, you are now brought upon the stage to act for Christ, I pray God help you to bear your testimony for him, I would by no means have you consent to my father’s terms. No brother, I replied, I would sooner beg my bread from door to door. While I sat at meeting, my mind was hurried, as no wonder, considering my case; but service being ended I again made the proposal to call on my father in our way home. We did so, and found him in the yard. Before we came quite to him, my brother repeated his admonition to me, tho’ I thought I stood in no need of his counsel on this particular. He talked very mildly to my father, pleading with him to be reconciled, but perceiving he still retained his anger, I whispered and desired my brother to go home. No, said he, not without you. I said, I will come presently; on which he went, though (as he told me afterwards) with many fears lest I should comply, but I then thought I would as soon part with my life.

My brother being gone, I stood pleading with my father, and said, Father, I will serve you in any thing that lies in my power, I only desire liberty to hear God’s word on his own day, grant me this and I ask no more. Father, (continued I) you cannot answer for my sins, nor stand in my stead before God, I must look to the salvation of my own soul, &c. He replied, if I would promise never to go to a meeting as long as he lived, I should then go into the house, and he would provide for me as his own child; if not, I should never have one farthing from him. Father, said I, my soul is of more worth than so, I dare not make you such a promise; upon this his anger was greatly inkindled, and he bid me be gone, for he was resolved what to do; therefore promise me, that you will never go to the meeting again, and I will give you the key, repeating these words several times, holding it out to me, and urging me to promise, and as I as often refusing, till at last his wrath increased. What do you say? if you now refuse to comply, you shall never be offered it more, and I am determined you shall never come within my doors again as long as I live. While I thus stood crying by him, he repeated the same expressions; What do you say hussey? will you promise me or not? Being thus urged at last I answered, Well father, I will promise you never to go to a meeting again as long as you live without your consent. Hereupon he gave me the key and I went into the house.

But O! soon after I had entered the door, that awful scripture was brought to my mind, Matt. x. 33. Whoever shall deny me before men, him will I also deny before my Father which is in heaven. Also verse 37. He that loveth father or mother more than me is not worthy of me. O! thought I, what will become of me! what have I done this night! I was so filled with terror that I was going to run out of the house again, but I thought this would not alter what I had done. Now, alas! all my comforts were gone, and, in their room, nothing but grief, and guilt, and rendings of conscience! In this instance I saw what all my resolutions were come to; even nothing. This was Lord’s day night, and a black night it was to me.

In a little time my father came in and behaved with affection; he bid me to get him some supper, which I did. He also told me to come and eat with him, but it was a bitter supper to me. My brother’s heart ached when he saw I did not follow him, fearing I should promise, and not coming to his house, was ready to conclude I had done so. But no tongue can express what a doleful condition I was in. I hardly durst look up to God for mercy. Now I thought I must hear the word no more. What good would it do me if my father could give me his house full of silver and gold! Thus I went about reflecting my condition, and sorrowing till almost spent with grief.

On Monday I withdrew into the barn, to pray and give vent to my sorrow; when, as I stood sighing, with my hand inclined to the wall and crying out, Lord, what shall I do? those words surprised me, I Cor. x. 13. There shall be a way to escape that you may be able to bear it. Lord! thought I, what way wilt thou make my father willing to let me go to thine ordinances? if thou dost, still, what a wretch was I thus to deny Christ?

In the evening as we were sitting by the fire, my father asked me what was the matter? I burst out into tears, saying, O father! I am distressed at the thoughts of my promise, not to go to a meeting again without your consent. He was so moved that he wept like a child, bidding me not to let that trouble me, for we should not disagree; at which I was a little comforted, and said, Pray, father, forgive me wherein I have been undutiful to you. He then told me with tears how much he was trouble for me that night he shut me out of doors, insomuch that he could not sleep, adding, it was my riding behind John Bunyan that made him so angry.‡‡

The greatest part of the next day, being Tuesday, I spent in prayer and weeping, with bitter lamentations, humbling myself before the Lord for what I had done, and begging I might be kept by his grace and spirit, from denying him and his ways for the future. Before night, he brought me out of this horrible pit, and se my feet upon a rock, enabling me to believe the forgiveness of all my sins, my sealing many precious promises home on my soul. I could now look back with comfort on the night I spent in the barn; the sweet relish of that blessed word beloved returned, and I believe that Jesus Christ was the same yesterday, to-day, and forever; and that scripture was much in my mind, Job. v. 19. He shall deliver thee in six troubles, yea in seven there shall no evil touch thee. Also Deut. xxxiii. 27. The eternal God is thy refuge, and underneath are the everlasting arms.

My father was as well as usual this day, and eat his dinner as heartily as ever I knew him; after supper he smoaked a pipe, and went to bed seemingly in perfect health. But while I was by his bed side laying his clothes on him, those words ran through my mind, Amos viii. 2. The end is come. I could not think what to make of these words, they seemed so very mysterious to me.

As soon therefore as I quitted the room, I went to the throne of grace, where my heart was wonderfully drawn forth, especially that the Lord would shew mercy to my father, and save his soul, for which I was so importunate, that I could not tell how to leave pleading: and still that word continued on my mind, The end is come. Another thing I entreated of the Lord was, that he would stand by me and be with me, in whatever trouble I had to meet with, little thinking what was coming upon me that night and the week following.

After this I went to bed, thinking on the freedom which God had given me in prayer, but had not slept long before I heard a mournful noise, which I at first apprehended had been in the yard, but soon perceived it to be my father, I immediately arose, put on a few clothes, ran and lighted a candle, and coming to him, found him sitting upright in his bed, crying to the lord for mercy, saying, Lord have mercy on me, for I am a miserable sinner! Lord Jesus wash me in thy precious blood, &c! I stood trembling to hear him in such distress, and to see him look so pale, enquired how long he had been ill? He said, I was struck with a pain at my heart in my sleep, and shall die presently. I then keeling down by the bed side, and which I had never done before, prayed with him, in which he seemed to join very earnestly.

This done I said, Father, I will go and call somebody, for I dare not stay with you alone. He replied, You shall not go out at this time of night, don’t be afraid, still crying aloud for mercy. Soon after he said he would rise and put on his clothes himself, I ran and made a good fire, and got him something hot, hoping it might revive him. O, said he, I want mercy for my soul! Lord shew mercy to me, for I am a great sinner! If thou dost not shew me mercy I am miserable for ever! Father, said I, there is mercy in Jesus Christ for sinners, the Lord help you to lay hold on it. O replied he, I have been against you for seeking after Jesus Christ, the Lord forgive me, and lay not his sin to my charge!

I desired him to drink something warm which I had for him, but his trying to drink brought on a violent reaching, and he changed black in the face. I stood by holding his head, and he leaned upon me with all his weight. Dreadful time indeed! if I left him I was afraid he would fall into the fire! and if I stood by him he would die in my arms, and no person near us! What shall I do! Lord help me! Then came that scripture, Isa. xli. 10. Fear thou not, for I am with thee; be not dismayed, I am thy God; I will help thee, yea, I will uphold thee, &c.

By this time my father revived again out of his fit of fainting, for I think he did swoon away, he repeated his cries as before, Lord have mercy upon me, for I am a sinful man! Lord spare me one week more! one day more! Piercing words to me! After he had sat awhile, he felt and uneasiness in his bowels, and called for a candle to go into the other room, I saw him stagger as he went over the threshold, soon followed him, and found him the floor, which occasioned me to scream out, Father! father! putting my hands under his arms, lifting with all my might, first by one arm, then by another, crying and striving till my strength was quite spent.***

I found all my attempts to raise him in vain, and therefore, though not without fears of rogues, who I thought waited at the door, ran like some distracted creature, thro’ deep snows to my brother’s, where I stood crying in a deplorable manner. The family being alarmed, my brother came immediately with two of his men, and found our father risen from the ground, and laid upon the bed. My brother spake to him, but he could not answer, except one word or two. On my return, the desired me not to go into the room, saying he was just departing, O dismal night, had not the Lord wonderfully supported me I must have died too, of the fears and frights which I met with.

My brother’s man soon came out, and said he was departed: melancholy tidings! but in the midst of my trouble I had a secret hope that he was gone to heaven, nevertheless, I sat crying bitterly, to think what a sudden and surprising change death had made on my father, who went to bed well, and was in eternity by midnight! I said in my hear, Lord give me one seal more that I shall go to heaven when death shall make this change on me. Then that word came directly, Isaiah xxxv. 10. The ransomed of the Lord shall return and come to Zion with songs and everlasting joy upon their heads, &c. O I longed to be gone to heaven! thought I, they are singing whilst I am sorrowing! O that I had the wings of a dove, then I would fly away and be at rest.

Quickly after, my brother called in some neighbors, among whom came Mr. F. my bitter enemy, who enquired if my father was dead. Somebody replied, Yes, he is. The then said it is no more than what I looked for, though no notice was taken of these words till afterwards. this was Tuesday after the Friday night that I lay in the barn, when that scripture was so frequently in my mind, Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you. I thought now I had met with fiery trials indeed, not knowing that I had as bad or worse to come, which I shall now proceed to relate.

The day that my father died, the clergyman who met Mr. Bunyan and me at Gam’gay town’s end, reported at Baldock fair, that we had been criminally conversant together; which vile report I heard the next day, but that scripture came with such sweetness and bore me up, Matt. v. 11. Blessed are ye when men shall revile you, and say all manner of evil against you falsely for my sake.

On Thursday we had agreed to bury my father, and accordingly invited our relations and friends to the funeral. But on the Wednesday night. Mr. F. sent for my brother, and asked him, whether he thought my father died a natural death? A question which amazed my brother, who readily answered in the affirmative, Yes, I know he died a natural death. Mr. F. replied, but I believe he did not, and I have had my horse out of the stable twice to day to fetch a surgeon, but considered that you are an officer of the parish, therefore leave it to you: pray see and do your office. Upon my brother’s asking him, he thought my father came to his end if he did not die a natural death, he answered, I believe your sister has poisoned him.

My brother returned with a heavy heart, not knowing but I might lose my life; on acquainting my sister, she was likewise distressed, when they sent for a godly neighbor to pray with him and counsel him, who advised them to keep it from me that night; but early in the morning my brother came and told me, to whom I immediately said, O brother! blessed be God for a clear conscience. We deterred the funeral, and sending for a surgeon, told him the case, who examined me how my father was before he went to bed, and what supper he eat, &c. I told him all the particulars, and, when he had surveyed the corpse, he went to Mr. F. and told him, that he wondered how he entertain such thoughts concerning me, assuring him there were no just grounds for his suspicion. Mr. F. replied, he verily believed it was so. The surgeon perceiving that no arguments would convince him, told us we must have a coroner and jury. I readily agreed to this proposal, saying, Moreover, sir, as my innocency is know to God, I would have it known to men, therefore pray be pleased to open my father. This he declined, saying, there was no need for it, but promised to meet the coroner and jury the next day.

Now I had new work cut out, therefore went to the Lord and prayed that he would appear in this fiery trial. I saw my life lay at stake, as well as the name of God struck at, but that word was sent for my support and comfort, and it was a blessed one to my soul, Isaiah liv. 17. No weapon that is formed against thee shall prosper, and every tongue that shall rise against thee in judgment thou shalt condemn. Also chap. xlv. 24. All that are incensed against thee shall be ashamed. Encouraged by these precious promises, we sent for the coroner the next morning. Mr. F. hearing of it, told my brother he would have him meet the coroner and jury and agree it; for continued he, it will be petit treason, and your sister must be burnt. No, sir, replied my brother, we are not ashamed to let them come trough. Upon hearing this I said, I will have them come through, if it costs me all that my father has left me. I did not know how far God might suffer this man and the devil to go. It also troubled me to think that in case I suffered, another as innocent as myself must suffer too, for Mr. F. reported that I poisoned my father, and Mr. Bunyan gave me the stuff to do it with; but the Lord knew our innocency in this affair, both in thought, word and deed.

Whilst thus surrounded with traits and troubles, I must own that at times I had my carnal reasonings, tho’ I knew myself clear. I thought, should God suffer my enemy to prevail to the taking away of my life; how shall I endure burning? O the thoughts of burning were very terrible, and made my very heart to ach within me! But that scripture which I had often thought of before my father’s death came now into my mind, Isaiah xliii. 2. When thou passest through the fire I will be with thee, &c. I said in my heart, Lord, thou knowest my innocence, therefore if thou art pleased to suffer my enemies to take away my life, yet surely thou wilt be with me; thou hast been with me in all my trials hitherto, and I trust wilt not now leave me, in the greatest of all. At last I was made to believe, that if I did burn at the stake the Lord would give me his presence, and, in a solemn manner resigned myself to his disposal, either for life or death.

That afternoon in which the coroner was expected some christian friends from Gam’gay, paid me a visit, and spent time in prayer; and pleaded earnestly with the Lord on my behalf, that he would graciously appear for me, and glorify his name in my deliverance. This done, I retired and was much enlarged with begging the divine presence this day, and that I might not have so much as a dejected countenance, or be in the least daunted before them. I thought to stand before a company of men for the murder of my own father, though I knew my innocence, would make me sink, unless I had much of the Lord’s presence to support me. I thought, should I appear dejected or daunted, people will conclude that I am guilty, therefore I begged of God that he would carry me above the fears of men, devils and death, and give me faith and courage, to lift up my head before my accusers. Immediately that scripture darted into my mind, Job xvii. 9. The righteous also shall hold on his way. and he that hath clear hands shall be stronger and stronger. Then I broke out, Lord, thou knowest my heart, and my hands are clear in this matter. This was such a suitable word that I could hardly have had such another, and the Lord made every tittle of it good before the sun went down, so that I was helped to look mine enemies in the face with boldness.

Presently word was brought that the coroner and jury were come. I sat with some neighbors by the fire as they passed through the house into the room where my father lay; some of the jurymen came, and, taking me by the hand, with tears running down their cheeks, said, Pray God be thy comfort, thou art as innocent as I am I believe; thus one and another spake to me, which I looked upon as a wonderful mercy, to find they believed me not guilty.

When the coroner had viewed the corpse he came to warm himself by the fire where I sat, and looking stedfastly at me, he said, Are you the daughter of the deceased? I answered, Yes. He replied, Are you the person who was in the house alone with him when he was struck with death? Yes, Sir, I am she. He then shook his head, at which I feared his thoughts were evil towards me.

The jury also having taken their view, they went to dine at my brother’s; after which they proceeded to business, and sent for me. As I was going my heart went out much to the Lord that he would stand by me. Then came those words, Isa. liv. 4. Fear not, for thou shalt not be ashamed. And before I came to my brother’s house, my soul was made like the chariots of Aminadab, being wonderfully supported, even above what I could ask or think.

When I got there, my brother sent for Mr. F. who not coming soon, he sent again; at last he came. Then the coroner called the witnesses, being my brother’s men, who were sworn, he asked them whether they were present when my father died? what words they heard him speak? &c. And when they had answered, he called Mr. F. and gave him his oath, Come, said he, as are the occasion of our meeting together, we would know about this young woman’s murdering her father, and on what grounds you accuse her? Mr. F. but in a confused manner, told the coroner, of the late difference between my father and me, how I was shut out of doors, and that my father died but two nights after I was admitted; no body knew what to make of this strange preamble; but I stood in the parlour amongst them, with my heart as full of comfort as it could hold, being got above the fear of men or devils.

The coroner said, this is nothing to the matter in hand; what have you to accuse this young woman with? To which Mr. F. replied little or nothing to the purpose; and at the same time returning cross answers, was bid to stand by. Then I was called. Come sweetheart, saith the corner, tell us, where was you that night your father shut you out? I answered, Sir, I was in the barn all night. And was you there alone? Yes, sir, I had nobody with me. He shook his head and proceeded, Where did you go to the next morning? Sir, I staid in the yard till nine or ten o’clock, entreating my father to let me come in, but he would not.

At this he seemed concerned, and asked, Where I was the remaining part of the day? I said at my brother’s, and lay there the following night. When did your father let you come in? On the Lord’s day evening. Was he well when you came in? Yes sir. How long did he live afterward? Til Tuesday night. sir. Was he well that day? Yes, sir, as well as ever I saw him in my life, and he eat as hearty a dinner. In what manner was he taken, and at what time? Near midnight, complaining of a pain at his heart; I heard him groan, and made all hast to light a candle, and when I came, I found him sitting up in his bed and crying out of a pain in his heart, and he said he should presently die, which fright[e]ned me much, so that I could scarce get on my cloaths, when I made a fire, and my father rose and sat by it. I got him something warm, of which he drank a little, but straining to vomit, he swooned away while I held his head, and could not leave him to call in assistance, fearing lest in my absence he should fall into the fire.

The coroner further proceeded; Was there nobody in the house with you? No, sir, I said, I had none with me but God. At length my father came a little again to himself, and went into the other room, whither I soon followed him, and found him lying upon the floor, at which sight I screamed out in a most dismal manner, yet I tried to raise him up, but in vain; till at last, being almost spent, I ran to my brother’s in a frightful condition.

Having given him this relation, the coroner said, Sweet-heart, I have no more to say to you; and then he addressed himself to the jury, whose verdict being given, he turned himself to Mr. F. and said, You, sir, who have defamed this young woman in this public manner, endeavoring to take away her good name, yea, her life also, if you could, aught to make it your business now to establish her reputation. She has met with enough in being alone with her father, when seized with death, you had no need to add to her affliction and sorrow, and if you were to give five hundred pounds it would not make her amends.

He then came to me, and taking me by the hand, said, Sweet-heart, do not be daunted, God will take care of thy preferment, and provide thee a husband, notwithstanding the malice of this man. I confess these are hard things for one so young as thou art to meet with, but thank God for this deliverance, and never fear but he will take care of thee. Then addressing myself to the coroner and jury, I said, Sirs, if you are not all satisfied, I am free my father should be opened; as my innocence is known to God, I would have it known to you also, for I am not afraid of life. No, replied the coroner, we are satisfied, there is no need of having him opened, but bless God, that the malice of this man broke out, before thy father was buried.

The room was full of people, and great observation made of my looks and behavior. Some gentlemen who were on the jury, as I was afterwards told, said, that they should never forget with what a chearful countenance I stood before them. I know not how I looked, but this I know, my heart was as full of peace and comfort, as it could be. The jurymen were all much concerned for me, and were observed to weep when the coroner examined me. Indeed I have abundant cause to bless God that they were deeply convinced of my innocence, and I have heard that some of them were so affected with my case, that have would long after speak of me with tears.

When the coroner and company were gone, we sent again to our friends to invite them to the funeral, which was on Saturday night I now thought my trails on this account were over, and that Mr. F. had vented all his malice, but was mistaken, for, seeing he could not take away my life, his next attempt was to deprive me of what substance my father had left me. Accordingly he sends for my brother-in-law from my father’s grave, and informed him how things were left in the will, telling him that his wife was cut off with a shilling, but that he could put him in a way to come in for a share.†††

This was a new trouble. My brother-in-law§§§ threatened, if I would not resign part of what my father had left, he would begin a suit at law. Mr. F. prompted him on, saying, Hang her, do not let her go away with so much more than your wife, &c. And to law we were going. to prevent which, and for the sake of peace, I satisfied my brother with a handsome present.

About a month after my father was buried another report was spread at Biggleswade, that now, Agnes Beaumont had confessed she poisoned her father, and was quite distracted. Is it true? said some. Yes, it is true, said others. I have heard the defaming of many; report, say they, and we will report it, Jer. xx. 10.

But I was determined, if it pleased God to spare me till next market-day, I would go and let them see I was not distracted, and accordingly went, and when the market was at the height, shewed myself among the people, which put a stop to their business for a time; for their eyes were upon me, while I walked through and through with this thought, if there were a thousand more of you, I would lift up my head before you all. That day I was well in my soul, and therefore exceedingly chearful. Many people came and spake to me, saying, we now see that you are not distracted.

Some I saw cry, but some others laughed: O, thought I, mock on, there’s a day coming that will clear up all. That was a wonderful scripture, Psalm xxxvii. 6. And he shall bring forth thy righteousness as the light, and thy judgment as the noon day.

After this another report was raised, in a different part of the country, that Mr. Bunyan was a widower, and gave me counsel to poison my father, that he might marry me, which plot was agreed on as they said as we went to Gam’gay. But this report rather occasioned mirth than mourning, because Mr. Bunyan, at the same time, had a good wife living.

Now, thought I, surely Mr. F. has done with me: but the next summer a fire broke out in the town; how it came to pass no one could tell, but Mr. F. soon found a person on whom to charge it, for he affirmed that it was I who set the house on fire; but, as the Lord knoweth, I knew nothing of this fire till the doleful cry reached my ears: this malicious slander was not much regarded.

Thus have I related both the good and evil things I have met with, in past dispensations of providence, and have reason to wish it was as well with my soul now as then. And one mercy the Lord added to all the rest, which I cannot but mention, namely, that he kept me from prejudice against Mr. F. for notwithstanding he had so greatly injured me, I was helped to cry to the Lord, and that with many tears, for mercy on his soul. I can truly say that I earnestly longed after his salvation, and begged God to forgive him, whatever he had said or done to my hurt. ‡‡‡


N. B. Mrs. Beaumont survived these trials many years, and was twice married; her last husband’s name was Story, a person of considerable substance and great seriousness. She died at Highgate, November 28, 1720, aged 68 years. Her remains, by her order, were brought to Hitchin, where they lie interred in the Baptist burying-ground, and her funeral discourse was preached by my worth predecessor the late Rev. Mr. Needham, from 2 Cor. iv. 17. For our light affliction, which is but for a moment worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory.


Notes [added by Samuel James]

* A village about seven miles from Hitchin, in Hertfordshire.

For God speaketh once, yea twice, in a dream, in a vision of the night, when deep sleep falleth upon men, in slumberings upon the bed, &c. Job xxxiii. 14, 15.

§ Gamlingay; a place where some good people lived, who were members of Mr. Bunyan’s church of Bedford, and to whom he sometimes went to break bread.

This Mr. Wilson was the first pastor of the Baptist church at Hitchin, suffered imprisonment for the sake of the gospel, and was grandfather to the late Rev. Mr. Samuel Wilson of London.

** A certain person in the neighborhood, one Mr. F. who is often referred to afterwards in this relation, had slandered Mr. Bunyan, and let her father against him, endeavoring to make his vile calumnies pass for truth.

†† This clergyman usually preached at Edworth, the place where she dwelt.

§§ Who can forebear to remark the passages which were, all along, brought to the mind of this gracious woman? How exceeding pertinent and seasonable! no parts of scripture could be better adapted to her case and circumstances throughout the whole of her troubles. And, may not this be esteemed one evidence of their being sealed on her heart by the Spirit of the Lord?

‡‡ Some evil-minded men of the town, (as hinted before) especially Mr. F. had set her father against Mr. Bunyan, for in time past he had heard him preach, and had been much melted under the word; he would pray and frequently go to meeting. Yea, and when his daughter was first under spiritual concern, he had very great awakenings himself, and would say to some of the neighbors, My daughter can scarce eat, drink, or sleep, and I have lived these threescore years, and have scarce ever thought of my soul, &c.

*** See the remarkable dream of the apple-tree, p. 88.

††† Mr. F was an attorney, and made the will about three years before her father’s death, at which time he put her father forward to give her more than her sister, because of a design he then had of marrying her; but upon her going to the meetings and becoming religious, he turned to be her bitter enemy, was filled with implacable malice and hatred, and did all in his power to prejudice the mind of her father against her.

§§§ The reader is desired to take notice that this was not her own brother, who attended the meeting, and sympathized with her under her sufferings, as before related, but her sister’s husband.

Text: Samuel James, An Abstract of the Gracious Dealings of God, with Several Eminent Christians, in their conversion and sufferings. Taken from authentic manuscripts, And Published For the Comfort and Establishment of Serious Minds. By the late Rev. Samuel James, A. M. [The fifth edition.] (London: printed, for the benefit of the widow, by H. Trapp, son-in-law and successor to M. Lewis, No. 1. Paternoster-Row; and sold by J. Buckland, G. Keith, J. Johnson, and B. Tomkins; also to be had of the Rev. Mr. Button, Charles-Street, Southwark; Mr. J. James, No. 49, Crispin-Street, Spital-Fields; and Mr. W. Burder, No. 25, Old-Street, MDCCLXXVIII. [1778]), pp. 83-125.