Elizabeth Whebell (1781)

Elizabeth Whebell’s Spiritual Statement for Admission to Membership in the Church was presented at a Church Meeting on Monday 24 September 1781 and subsequently copied by one of the deacons into the Horsley-down and Carter Lane Church Book, 1719-1808. MS., Metropolitan Baptist Tabernacle, London, non-paginated. The spelling variants are most likely those of the copyist, and not necessarily reflective of Whebell, whose spelling was probably worse (click here to see her letters to John Rippon). This is a rare instance of a woman's conversion narrative designed for admission to the church being included in its totality in the church book. In Attwater's case, only a brief overview of her narrative was included by Revd Henry Phillips at the Brown Street congregation. In this instance, the entire narrative is present.

As with Jane Attwater, Whebell chose to have her conversion narrative read before the church by her pastor, John Rippon. Attwater's decision was based largely on her own reticence to speak in her own voice before the church; Whebell's decision was one of necessity, for she no longer had a physical voice with which to speak at all before the church. In each case, a woman in the church has composed a spiritual narrative that is delivered to the congregation through the mouth of the minister, who, in essence, is acting as the mouthpiece for the woman writer. In so doing, the minister becomes a kind of de facto puppet of the woman writer who both writes the narrative and superintends its transmission to the congregation through an act of ventriloquism, in which she provides the words that come forth from the mouth of the minister. Thus, though she does not speak herself from the pulpit of the church, she does speak through the minister, accomplishing the same purpose but through a very different means.

A second entry about Whebell, from 20 November 1797, follows her narrative.


Our Dear Brother and Pastor inform’d the Church that Eliz Webbell (N[o] 4 Throgmorton Street) attended desireing fellowship with this Church, but God in his providence having deprivd her of the use of speech for five years past (tho’ not of her hearing) she had communicated her desire to him by Letter and which containd an account of the Lord’s dealings with her soul. –

The Church unanimously agreed to dispense with the usual method of receiveing a verbal experience in this case. Mrs Webbell being introduced our Pastor read her Letter and she signifieing that it was her own hand writeing and containd her experience by stretching out her right hand. It was agreed to receive her into full Communion with this Church on her being baptized. Her moral Character being attested by Bror Rippon –

This being so singular a Case as also a pleasing Account it was agreed that the said letter should be copied into the church book and is as follows:

To Mr Rippon


My soul hungereth and thirsteth to join the Church of Christ that I may inquire in the Temple of the Lord, and to walk humbly before him which encourages me Sir to take the liberty of writing a few lines, my not being able to discover my sentiments in any other way, the Lord having seen fit in his infinite wisdom to lay his hand on me in depriveing me of the power of speech in a fit of sickness, I trust for some wise ends, and humbly hope that it is for the glory of God and the good of my immortal soul, blessed and praised be his holy name that I can say from happy heart felt experience that it has been good for me to be afflicted having found it to be a blessing in disguise. But I humbly hope Sr that the loss of my speech will not prove any hinderance to my joining the Church of Christ it being my earnest desire to give up my whole heart unto the lord with Body, Soul and Spirit to serve and seek the Lord in every appointed means, desireing to know nothing but Christ Jesus and him crucified, that I may walk before the Lord in newness of life, being earnestly desirous to be [a] humble follower of the Lord Jesus, and to tread in the steps of a dear Redeemer, tho’ other Lords have had dominion over me yet I trust I can now say in the fear of God that it is my earnest desire to obey and serve the one living and true God, even the Trinity in unity and unity in Trinity three persons but one God, it is my earnest desire to fullfill the commandmens of the Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord having been graciously pleased to convince me of the Ordinance of believer’s baptism about a twelvemonth ago (by reading a book written thereon by Mr John Norcott[1]) which when I had once read quite unsettled my mind which led me to a throne of grace to intreat the Lord to convince me if it was his command, if not that I might be enabled through grace to reject it but in twice more reading it the Lord was graciously pleased to convince me that it was his command by his word and spirit bringing it home with power to my soul. I have long wished to follow the example of our blessed Lord but have not been settled with respect to a Church, but I have reason to bless and praise the Lord which in his mercy and providence brought me to attend on your Ministry, and I trust that through grace I have been enabled to profit under the same: I now desire and long to yeild submission to the command of God, not only because I view it as a Command but as my Duty as well as previledge and as an act of worship due unto the Lord. I likewise desire to fullfill that other glorious command of the Lord alas how unworthy am I to partake of such blessed previleges haveing through sin forfetted every blessing, for it is said he that often doeth in one point is guilty of the whole Law how much more then must I stand condemn’d haveing repeatedly broken the holy Just and righteous Law of God and have thereby contracted a debt which I shall never be able to pay. But forever blessed and praised be the Lord our God for that unspeakable gift of his dearly beloved and only begotten son, which freely gave himself to redeem poor lost sinners from the curse of the Law of which I confess myself to be the very choise, one whom the Lord might long ago have cutt down as a cumberer of the ground and sent me down to Hell to reap the just reward of my sins, but blessed and praised be the Lord for spareing me, unworthy me, as a monument of his Everlasting forbearing long suffering Love and tender mercy, which has pluckt me as a brand from the burning and saved me from going down to the bottomless pit from whence there is no returning, a brand just ready to have catcht fire. Oh what Love what manner of Love is this which I trust I can say has brought me out of darkness into marvelous light, and I humbly trust that the Lord which hitherto in great mercy kept me with my face Zion-ward will still keep me in the narrow way while I remain in this howling wilderness. Oh may I ever be inabled to receive out of that glorious fullness which is treasured up in the Lord Jesus, Grace for Grace. I desire to bless and adore the Lord which has enabled me thro grace to say, from happy experience that Wisdom’s ways are ways of pleasantness and all her paths are peace, and to esteem one hour in God’s house when blest with his divine presence far better than a thousand else where, and haveing found the Lord Jesus to be very precious to my soul and the alltogether lovely O Sr I want to be more conform’d to the Image of the Lord that I may die daily to the things of time and sence, and live ^more^ to the praise and glory of God, humbly desireing to veiw every instrument and ordinance only as chanels thro’ which the Lord is graciously pleased to communicate himself to the beleiveing soul. I chearfully renounce all dependence on my own works and dutys and acknowledge all my righteousness to be as filthy rags, and ever desire to depend alone on the Lord Jesus Christ for a compleat perfect and finish’d salvation. O may I be enabled thro’ diving grace to ever looking steadfastly unto the Lord Jesus that rock of Ages, after whom my soul longeth humbly desireing to follow the Lord thro’ evil and thro’ good report and to cleave close to him alone with full purpose of heart counting all things as dung and dross, so that I may but win Christ, the hope of glory. I confess Sr my inability to discover myself by writing in which I am able to do it, I humbly flatter myself that you will not judge uncharitably of me on that account, this I trust I can say in the fear and presence of God, that it is my earnest desire to act as one which must shortly appear before the Judgement seat of Christ. Wishing ever to have a single eye to the Lord Jesus, and to keep the glory of God as the grand object in veiw, I now Sr humbly and earnestly intreat an interest in your prayers finding a daily and an hourly need to cry to the strong for strength, and remain your

Most Obedient and Dutyfull Servt

Eliz Whebell

Entry from the Carter Lane Church Book, 20 July 1795 (non-paginated):

Sister Wheeble haveing been long afflicted and in necessatous circumstances she haveing to her Parish for reliefe for whence she has obtained 3s/6 pr week in order to make it more comfortable to her The Church agreed to allow her two shilings a week from last ordinace day for three months leaveing it to the discretion of the Deacons if she wants further assistance to act as they shall see proper.

Entry from the Carter Lane Church Book, 20 July 1795 (non-paginated):

Resolv'd that the 2s/pr week be continued to sister Eliz Wheble for three months longer and that Bror [ ] be requested to enquire into the state of her health and if the continuance of the same be necessary after that time.

Entry from the Carter Lane Church Book, 16 November 1795 (non-paginated):

Sister Wheeble's allowance continued for three months.

Entry from the Carter Lane Church Book, 20 November 1797 (non-paginated):

Sister Elizth Wheble who has for sometime been a recipient of the Churches bounty, finding she is better able to support herself than heretofore, returns thanks for past kindness & declines receiving further from the Church.

[1] John Norcott (d. 1676), Baptism Discovered Plainly & Faithfully according to the Word of God. Wherein is set forth the Glorious Pattern of our Blessed Saviour Jesus Christ, the Pattern of all Believers in his Subjection to Baptism. Together, with the Example of Thousands who were Baptized after they Believed. 3rd ed., corrected by Will. Kiffin, and Rich. Claridge. With an appendix by another hand. [London]: Printed at Rotterdam, and now re-printed at London, by the assigns of Widow Norcott, and sold by Will. Marshall at the Bible in Newgate, 1694.