Selections from Anne Cator Steele's Diary: 1730

[Monday] 13 July 1730

I did not sleep well thro ye indisposition that attended me ye evening past, yet I had that on my mind ye are dead & your Life is hid with Christ in God and when Christ who is our light shall appear &c but I could not take much comfort from it being bad in my head and enclin’d to melancholy all day breathing out my complaints to ye lord, lamenting before him my frailty & sinfulness, desiring I may be as ready as I seems willing to obey God when he sends his messenger Death to call me home for tho I have met with no worldly cross or disappointment yea I enjoy as much as heart can wish for yet knowing this is not my Eternal home these warnings make me look for Death nor can I see anything worth desiring to stay longer here except God have any work for me to do to promote his interest in ye world and if so then ye languige of my soul seems to be, lord here am I find me.

I was better in health this morning but was tho’tfull about a distemper that is come into this place amongst ye cattle viz ye murain there being a great many pigs dead on it & about seven cows one of them being ours, I endevoured to view ye hand of God in all these things thinking on that, is there evil in a citty & ye lord hath not done it, that was much on my tho’ts. Alas who shall live when God doth this –

[Wednesday] 15 July 1730

I had something troubled me thro reading a letter, yet it makes me see the uncertainty of Earthly comforts, & makes me love and praise God who has (I hope in mercy) bestow’d so much of this worlds good things that I have no need to be beholding to any but him who has so freely given it to me & I beg I may be enabled to use it for his glory, I found wrath & anger to arise & disturb my mind & that came with power and ye kind one to another tender hearted forgiving one another even as God for Christs sake has forgiven you this soon wrote a sweet serenaty in my breast and I was enabled to pray to God earnestly that he would subdue ye vanitys & follys of my relatives & work true conversion on ye souls of my young relations, I was in a praying agreeable frame in ye evening.

[Thursday] 16 July 1730

I was ill most part of this day yet I read and convers’d about ye best things, that Scripture was much on my mind ye evening past, but we have ye mind of Christ & it came in suitable, something I spoke to one vex’d my mind yet I can’t see there was any sin in it, I would be more carefull & therefore desire of God that he would set a watch before my lips.

[Friday] 17 July 1730

I was very ill this morning yet it wore off & I walkd out, & had a good agreeable chat with one & after had some discours with Ben: who seems much better than he have done & I was inclin’d to thankfullness.

[Saturday] 18 July 1730

Rush’d about worldly things this day yet I read & was stird up to to lively earnest prayer that came to my mind & much affected me am not I better to thee than to some this made me think tho some Relatives at distance from me don’t yield me that comfort I might hope for yet God in his making good his promises is far better than all that.

[Friday] 31 July 1730

I continued in the same quiet peaceable frame reading a great deal of ye time in a large History of ye Monarchs of England, and by reading that about ye powder plot I found my affections warm’d and drawn out to praise God in my evening duty.

[Saturday] 1 August 1730

My time has been employ’d much as it was ye day past, I have been troubled with a pain in my tooth & have something of ye Ague & fevour every day yet I was in a humble praying frame in ye eveng.

[Sunday] 2 August 1730

Mr Steele is gon to Sarum for ye work of ye day I was in a sweet enlarg’d praying frame being stir’d up by reading Flavels Last Chapter of Navigation Spiritualized, I heard Uncle in ye morning from being justified freely by his grace, and had some agreeable discours between ye meetings and heard John Sutton from how much more shall ye blood of Christ I heard both times indiferently well but was often very bad in my head, yet I went to Uncle Steele with Mary Strong & saw cause to bless God who enabled her to talk to Uncle better then I expected.

[Monday] 3 August 1730

I am indispos’d in body this morning & seem to have some uneasiness in my mind fearing whether I main’t be thot to put persons forward concerning their joyning with ye Church but I know & ye lord he knows that I never would put forward any but such whom I have good grounds to hope are believers in Christ for none but such I apprihend have a right to ye ordinances of Gods house and what I do of that kind is with an eye to ye honour and Glory of God always bringing such cases to ye lord by prayer and supplycation for direction both for myself and others that came to my mind even them will I bring to my high mountain & make them joyfull in my house of prayer &c and that Him that confesseth me before men him I confess before my father &c.

[Tuesday] 4 August 1730

I was tho’tfull this day, thro ye ringing out ye bell for a neighbour that fell from thaching a wheat rick ye day past then well & now in Eternaty and both my self & Relations are liable to ye same suddon stroke I desire to be prepar’d for it, Mr Steele is gone toward Sedghill to be out some days I beg’d preservation for him I was in a melancholy frame crying earnestly to the lord.

[Wednesday] 5 August 1730

It has pleas’d ye lord to bestow a very plentiful crop of corn He have soon pleas’d also to give as fine a season for bringing in ye wheat as can be desired for which my heart is drawn out in thankfulness, it being Mr Brittons day at Wallop I have tho’ts of going out but am afraid I am not able to perform ye walk I bring ye case to ye lord desireing to be directed strengthen’d & assisted & may in every thing do to ye praise & glory of God.

[Thursday] 6 August 1730

Went with company & we had suitable convers on ye way, I heard from Awake O north wind, &c[xix] but thro ye heat & my indisposition I was a very bad hearer. I got home but was very much tired –

[Friday] 7 August 1730

and this day I was in a very stuppid condition I went out there being three to be baptiz’d but I had something of ye fevour & was in a very bad frame. Mr Britton spoke from Acts 10:47: but I dont know that I reciev’d any benefit thro my own negligence & stuppidity, I after talk’d with Ben: who is now in a very bad obstinate condition, at which I was griev’d. Mr Steele came home safe thro mercy, but I was not thankful.

[Saturday] 8 August 1730

I was ill this morning & in a sad stuppid frame, in ye evening I look’d back & lamented my sad barrenness for some time past together with my unthankfulness, for mercys reciev’d & considering how near the time is that I am (God willing) to approach ye table of the Lord I found my heart drawn out in suitable & earnest desires & after in meditations haveing many sweet scriptures on my mind.

[Sunday] 9 August 1730

I have had a great many tho’ts this day about ye things of God & have some cause to lament how many vain wicked Atheistical tho’ts have of late intruded themselves into my mind yet thro ye mercy of God I did not harbour them I have had some very suitable Scriptures on my mind & have read & considered & been affected with my Experience, a humble, praying, confessing, resin’d frame [...]

[Wednesday] 12 August 1730

My child is very ill thro a surfeit I desire ye lord to do his pleasure & teach me to submit, I have been reading Bunians come & Welcome to Jesus, it has even rais’d my love into a flame to think how freely & willing Christ forgives poor comeing sinners & oh how thankfulll would I be I had some discours with Ben. who seems better enquiring into ye nature & essence of Christ being willing (as I hope) to fix his faith on a right bottom I inform’d him as well as I was capable & after refflected upon myself to think how little of God I do know.

[Friday] 14 August 1730

I have been in a studious tho’tfull frame great part of this day I was affected by reading in Flavells Spiritual Husbandry & that was very pleasant to me viz they that are joyned to ye are one spirit, and I hope I am realy joyned & united to Christ, and what love & thankfulness I can here express.

[Friday] 4 September 1730

This morning, a Rec [Rebecca]: Bevis, a disorderly member of our Church came to seek reconcilation, haveing offended me as well as others, I hope I was willing to be reconcil’d for she own’d she had been to blame & said she had repented of it & was very sorry she had so acted, but yet her memory seem’d to fail in some perticulars which I tho’t strange, I was in a very calm temper but not in so spiritual a frame as I could desire at the time.

[Saturday] 5 September 1730

I awak’d this morning with that, If ye call on ye father who without respect of persons judgeth according to every man’s works, pass ye time of your sojourning here with fear & soon after that of a truth I percieve God is no respector of persons &c[xxiv] and that, we have all sin’d & come short of the Glory of God thro’ meditating on those scriptures I was in a humble forgiving temper, but yet ye former abuses I had receiv’d from ye above nam’d person would come in my mind thinking also she seem’d to mince some of it & did not clear it to my satisfaction, I bro’t the case therefore before ye lord, sincerely desiring to be directed being in a suitable praying frame, and that came with power Commit thy way unto ye Lord trust also in him & he shall bring it to pass I was enabl’d to commit and resign my whole self body & soul together with all my concerns to my good and Gracious God, who has hitherto taken care for me & will at this time I hope. Beck Bevis was here great part of ye day with whom I had a great deal of convers she talks very well and I hope she is sincere in her acknowledgments, in my evening duty I return’d my sincere thanks (I hope) for ye return of this stray’d sheep, crying earnestly to God on her account as well as my own that was on my mind in I Pet 4:19.

[Sunday] 6 September 1730

Heard Uncle this morning from If you confess your sins he is faithful & just &c, I was earnest with ye Lord between ye meetings for one desireing direction from God that she may be most to his Glory. Heard Mr Steele from 2 Cor: 11: 2: For I am jealous over you with a Godly jealousie &c I heard diligently & very affectionately, afterward Beck: made confession of her disorderly swearing the cause of her misbehaviour towards some of ye members, owning she was sorry for the same & that she have sincerely repentted of it before God and desireing yt she again take her place in ye church. She was admitted as before.

[Monday] 7 September 1730

I was not in so good a frame as I was last night yet something of ye savour remain’d & I had some talk with several about their Souls, in the evening Beck came haveing been at Betty Jones’s with Mr Grant. She spoke of many reviling bad things which they spoke not only against me but also against ye Church. I was not disturb’d with it as I have formerly been that came to my mind but none of those things move me neither count I my life dear unto myself &c yet I saw great cause to bless and praise God for his tender care of me and that notwithstanding I have been ye Butt of the aforemention’d persons envy they can’t withdraw ye affections of my Husband or any of ye Church from me which seems to be what they have for a great while aim’d at, and now it seems unlikely they should attain their ends, they being now become a publick scandal by their undecent keeping company together, I could hope God would make them sencable of their sins & follies, which I think of one kind and another is very great tho’ I would hope not so bad as is reported.

[Tuesday] 8 September 1730

I awak’d with that Scripture When a man’s ways please ye Lord he maketh his enimies to be at peace I was in a loveing adoreing depending rezineing frame there are a great many at Salsbury that have embrac’d ye Arian notions some of most perswassions but chiefly ye sobberest part of Church people. I was affected by hearing there are lately several of them that has died in a despairing condition particularly one young man that the person after some denials went into ye room where he was (as I heard it) the sick man covered his face saying he was a damn’d Creature & that he had denied ye divinity of ye Son of God & now he should never see his face with comfort therefore he would see man no more, & so he died, I desire this may be made usefull to rouse others out of that dreadfull Error.

[Wednesday] 28 October 1730

Hearing last night of some things that was spoke (not only of myself but others of our family) false & degrading, I had several tho’ts about it, and I can see it a great mercy that tis not in ye power of those that hate us to hurt us that was very powerfull on my mind, there the Glorious Lord will be unto us a place of broad rivers & streams &c and I have Experienc’d God have continually been a defence & preserver to me, and in my meditations & prayer my heart & affections resign’d to love & thankfullness, that came to my tho’ts, what is man that thou shouldst let thy heart upon him and visit him every morning, thus I can for God doth visit me in mercy every morning yea every moment.

[Saturday] 31 October 1730

[...] going to begin Buroughs works I desir’d a blessing theron and in that of ye rare jewel of Christian contentment[xxxi] I met with something that suited my former Experience and affected me sweetly. I remember that God had made crooked things, praise this God hath done for me & hath not forsaken me and my soul doth now adore, admire, love & praise that never failing bountiful God whom I ever desire to serve & reverence.

[Sunday] 1 November 1730

[...] heard Mr Steele from this is life Eternal to know &c[xxxii] I heard pretty well yet my mind was disturb’d in ye ordinances thro ye going out of her that is dejected and that came to my mind I will hide mine eyes from you when you make many prayers, then I was getting into a lovely frame and presently I was assaulted with Atheistical tho’ts and that came who knoweth ye Spirit of man that goeth upward &c[xxxiv] see for my self &c this made me adore & even rest my self on God.

[Wednesday-Saturday] 4-7 November 1730

I went out this day but I neither did nor receiv’d much good by my conversation and in ye evening I could not pray in prayer our maid was call’d up in ye night to go to her father who was tho’t to be a dying in a fevour I was affected with it but not so much as I could desire I was very much hurried with busness all day yet I had some usefull tho’ts & convers & was drawn forth to joyn in prayer in family duty in ye evening, Sarahs father being yet alive desireing a share in our prayers – I had more time but less heart for duty than in ye day past yet in ye evening my desires was reaching after more knowledge of God.

[Tuesday] 17 November 1730

Mr Steele is gon to Salsbury & tis very wet bad weather I desire he may be preserv’d from danger of many kinds, the smalpox being there frequent and there has been in those parts as well as others of late divers rob’d & abus’d upon ye Road, and what is wors there is at Bristol Gloucester, Exeter, Froom, Bath &c a company that writes themselves Legion those sends Letters to whom they please commaning them to send money and lodge where they directs on ye penalty of their Lives the Burning of their Houses the ruin of their famillys &c have done mischief in Bristol so as to alaram (as appears by ye news papers) the greatest part of ye nation, this have occasioned in me a great many melancholy tho’ts concerning my sisters family, yet I know God is above all who can and I hope will preserve them, and can when he pleases discover those vilians tho they make great boasts that none shall be able to discovert them & swears notoriously to be the death of those to whom they send their Letters, if they discover it, I beg ye Lord to put a stop to it if [it] be his pleasure I had that on my mind O let ye wickedness of the wicked come to an end &c I was reading Aleins Alarm to ye unconverted by which I was both affected & confirm’d in my hopes that I am realy converted Experiencing those marks he lays down there for tryal, Mr Steele came home late and Mr Dinis of London with him I was thankfull he being pretty well I sat up late to read a relation of some Experiences & great deliverances of one Agnes Beamount that lived in Bunians time, by which I was affected.

[Tuesday] 24 November 1730

I have late heard more than once how very much Betty Jones do speak against me one time that came to my mind it may be ye lord will look upon it and requite me good for this cursing and now that came with power If it had not been ye lord that was on our side when men rose up against us they had swallow’d us up.

[Friday] 27 November 1730

This day I have been busied about worldly things this morning Mr Steele is gon toward Linnington for the work of ye ensuing day I beg preservation for him as well as I could being in a poor frame Nannys Illness appears to be the measles which we did not think it not being in this place before I found my self thankfull that I had taken all necessary care of her since her Illness.

[Wednesday] 9 December 1730

I have last night & this day been employ’d in reading Religious Courtship a very pretty delightsome informing book[xl] news was bro’t of our maids fathers death this morning for which I was griev’d on many accounts this was a means to make me thotfull & stir me up In my evening duty I was afterwards indisposed in body.

[Friday] 11 December 1730

I was earnest with God this morning for many things Mr Steele has prepar’d to preach a funeral sermon at Wallop for our maids father I had something perplex’d my mind about my going thither the weather being windy & the horses I must ride testy & wanton I was very fearfull soon after I was got up that came with power our help is in the Lord who made heaven & earth and this was very sweet & seasonable to me but yet my fears sometimes prevail’d & that came and he will favour my desires run out after God begging I might have the Spirits assistance in hearing from for I know thou wilt bring me to death and to the house appointed for all liveing and thro mercy I heard affectionately earnestly entreating it might be made usefull for the good of souls, particularly the poor distressed family concern’d, I walk’d home (being afraid to ride) & had some agreeable converse and my soul was drawn out in thankfulness after I came home in a sence of manifold mercies.

[Saturday] 12 December 1730

This morning Sarah came home & my time & tho’ts was much taken up about what she has been talking of and the more I see and hear the afflictions & miseries of other families the more I stand amaz’d at the wonderfull distinguished love of God to worthless me what am & what was my fathers house that God should thus deal & give me all things in this world that my heart can desire yea a husband endued with such heavenly knowledge & Grace that when I rest on it seriously it fills me with astonishment love & praise and this is now the case, yet this is most times attended with a slavish fear of losing him and sometimes this fear prevails upon me to a sad degree, I read my experiences since my last sitting down at ye lords table and find & know I have been in a poor barren frame [a] great part of the time I now beg I may be prepar’d for the ensuing day and that I may be refresh’d and quickened by the holy ordinances of Gods house I was sweetly drawn out in my evening duty in love & thankfulness I had that in Heb: 9:14 upon my mind & that God is love & he that dwelleth in love dwelleth in God & God in him.

[Wednesday] 23 December 1730

I am in a poor careless stuppid frame this day in ye evening too had some talk with Joseph Jones pretty warm I was after afraid whither I did not drive things a degree too far got upon Examination I hope what I had said was truth, and I shall be glad if this may be the last time of talking of those unprofitable unpleasant things, it was on my mind with weight in my evening duty.

[Monday] 28 December 1730

This morning I had some suitable discours with a Christian friend & soon after heard how reproachfully & bad Joseph Jones did speak concerning me and tho at first hearing it did not much disturb me yet by pondering thereon & as it were seeing how much there was of Satan in it I found it a means to bring me very humble before the lord that came to my mind save me O God for ye waters are come in unto my soul having found it the psalm seemd very agreeable & sweet to me, that also was very much upon my mind yet he hath made with me an everlasting covenant and this is all my salvation[xliv] [...]

Text: Anne Cator Steele's diary consists of three extant manuscript volumes: vol. 2 (13 July 1730-36), STE 2/1/1; vol. 5 (1749-52), STE 2/1/2; and vol. 6 (1753-27 June 60), STE 2/1/3. For a more complete accounting of ACS’s diary, including numerous selections, see John Broome, A Bruised Reed: The Life and Times of Anne Steele (Harpenden, Hertfordshire: Gospel Standard Trust Publications, 2007).

In the first volume of Anne Cator Steele’s diary, she records in considerable detail a scandalous affair that occurs between Mrs Betty Jones, the wife of Joseph Jones, both members of the Baptist church at Broughton and relations of the Steeles, and the Rev. John Grant, a former member of the Broughton church who was at that time minister to the Baptist church in Whitchurch. Grant had been instructed in the ministry by Henry Steele at Broughton, and served the congregation at Whitchurch from 1721 to 1726, at which time he appears to have left for London and other locations. He was back in Hampshire by 1730-31, and apparently doing occasional preaching and seeking a church, though not pastoring the Whitchurch congregation as he had previously. At this time he begins to appear in ACS’s diary. Betty Jones’s relationship with the Broughton church, however, began to deteriorate in the late 1720s, as she and another woman, Rebecca Bevis, were visited by William Steele III and some other members of the church in November 1727 concerning unspecified actions that were sufficient to warrant possible exclusion from the church. Neither woman was excluded at that time, but they must have continued to create some unrest in the church, for Bevis appears in the fall of 1730 once again causing problems in the church. The affair between Jones and Grant would have been especially poignant to ACS, not only because John Grant had such close ties to the Broughton church and to Henry and William Steele, but also because of her close familiarity with Betty Jones as a member of her church and a relation of the family. The story begins in the fall of 1730 and continues through 1733.

Another reference of interest is Steele's comments on reading a manuscript copy of The Narrative of the Persecutions of Agnes Beaumont. In 1672 Agnes Beaumont (1652-1720) boldly joined John Bunyan’s Independent congregation in Bedford. In 1674 she was given permission by her father to attend an evening meeting of nonconformists in nearby Gamlingay; what he did not know, however, was that she would ride all the way there while seated behind Bunyan on his horse. Her father was outraged by her action and locked her out of the house upon her return. After much turmoil, Agnes was vindicated, although rumors continued to circulate that something had occurred between her and Bunyan. She died in 1720 and was buried at Hitchin. In 1760 Samuel James, at that time the minister of the Particular Baptist church there, published an abridged version of the narrative in his collection, An Abstract of the Gracious Dealings of God. James was the father of Isaac James, later of Bristol and friend to Joseph Cottle and Robert Southey and brother-in-law to Robert Hall. Two manuscript versions of the Narrative now reside at the British Library, MSS Egerton 2414 and 2128, one having been originally in the possession of a Mrs Kenrick of Hampshire; it is possible she was an acquaintance of ACS and loaned her the manuscript, though the entry above does not specify that the work was a manuscript. If not, then the Narrative would have appeared in print prior to 1760; that seems unlikely, however, since no such edition has been accounted for to date.