She had a true affection, value and honour for all serious Christians, whatever were their distinguishing names and characters. If she observed the reality and power of godliness,[1] and a calm and peaceable temper in any, she equally approved and loved it whether under a cloak or cassock.

Yet she statedly[2] joined herself to Dissenters and was never ashamed or afraid to own or plead for them.

It was not her education that determined her in this practice, but a faithful regard to Scripture, and conscience and uncorrupted antiquity. She read and considered and fully weighed the controversy; and after her most diligent and serious searches for truth[3] she concludes at last,

I must be a Dissenter in principle still, for aught I can see to the contrary. The way I am in, so far as I am capable of judging, is that which comes closest to the Scripture rule, and by much the freest for my conscience, and the way wherein I have found most of God, and therefore the way in which I must still walk. Far be it from me to censure others, and be it as far from others to censure me; they differ as much from me as I do from them, and therefore it is but just that we should have equal charity.

If any worldly interest could have biased her judgment in this matter, she wanted not temptations when in a single state from persons of very unblemished characters and prosperous circumstances (Sir P— T—, Sir F— M— and Bishop S—) if she could have been easy in the communion of the Established Church: but she chose rather to suffer affliction with poor Dissenters than to lose the liberty and peace of her own conscience for any titles of honour or worldly grandeur, which she looked on but as toys and baubles, and therefore what should never charm her out of her profession.[4]

She saw many clouds on the Dissenting interest then, and shared in the sufferings that befell it since, but was moved at nothing, unless it were at the unsteadiness of some that were dear to her, who forsook (as she thought) their own mercies by leaving the way in which they had their first acquaintance with God and themselves, and their first tastes and relishes of religion.

She would often take notice with what scorn and contempt and malignity it was treated by some, and how shamefully discredited by others that had seemingly embraced it, but nevertheless was always fully persuaded that God would patronize that interest as his own, revive it out of its bondage, and make it honourable at last: that all the prayers, and tears, and bonds and sufferings of its noble confessors should not be always forgot or unrewarded. She would often repeat the words of the prophet to poor ejected ministers, ‘Though your brethren that hated you have cast you out and said, “Let the Lord be glorified”, yet he shall appear to your joy, and they shall be ashamed.’[5]

[1] Cf. II Timothy 3:5 Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof: from such turn away.

[2] Regularly; not occasionally.

[3] Cf. Edward Bury (1616–1700), Samuel’s father, ejected from his living at Great Bolas in Shropshire for being unable to conform, which he declares thus: ‘I solemnly profess, in the presence of the great God, before whom I must shortly give an account of my works and actions, that in my most impartial judgment, after all the light that I can get by reading, praying, thinking, and discoursing with above 20 judicious and solid divines of both persuasions, I look upon it upon my duty not to conform; and whatever becomes either of myself or family, as I cannot force my judgment, so I will not dare to force my conscience’ (Calamy, The Nonconformists’ Memorial).

[4] Compare Hebrews 11:24–26 By faith Moses, when he was come to years, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter; choosing rather to suffer affliction with the people of God, than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season; esteeming the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures in Egypt: for he had respect unto the recompense of the reward.

Cf. Elisabeth West (April 6, 1701): ‘I also promise to stand for the Presbyterian government, because I believe it is the way and worship appointed in thy word. When they are in trouble, I desire to be in trouble with them, and to take my lot with them; but it is only in the strength of the Lord that I promise.’

[5] Isaiah 66:5 Hear the word of the LORD, ye that tremble at his word; your brethren that hated you, that cast you out for my name’s sake, said, Let the LORD be glorified: but he shall appear to your joy, and they shall be ashamed.

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