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The following Work consists of two distinct parts. The first part is a religious Diary, nearly two hundred years old, now for the first time committed to the press; the Writer of which filled some responsible public stations about the period of the Commonwealth, but, shortly after the close of his narrative, and while in the meridian of life, was among the earliest in his native city of Aberdeen, to join himself in communion with the people called Quakers. The second division of this Work, carries forward what is known of the subsequent career of Alexander Jaffray, in conjunction with historical MEMOIRS of his cotemporaries and companions in the profession of the same Christian principles.
With regard to the Diary, it came into my hands in the following manner. Travelling in Scotland in the autumn of 1826, I visited Ury, near Stonehaven, the place of my ancestors, and well known to the Society of Friends as the residence of Robert Barclay, their “ Apologist.” My mingled feelings of interest, in passing a night or two under the roof of the hospitable proprietor, my cousin, I need not enlarge on ; yet must not forbear expressing the emotions of desire and hope, which attended me from the first, that the inquiry and search I was about to make, for documents relative to that family as Friends, might be turned to a beneficial account, by throwing light upon the history of that remarkable religious experience, for which some of them in former times were distinguished, and are to this day deservedly held in reputation. Among other MSS. to all appearance much neglected, and which might have
been ere long utterly lost sight of, lay the earlier portion of the present Diary, in a corner of the Apologist's study; and, in another place, “ A Brief Historical Account of the Rise, Progress, and Persecutions of the People called Quakers, in the North of Scotland.” Of the latter MS. I shall presently have occasion to speak; but of the former, with regard to its appearance and state of preservation, the reader may be best assisted in forming a correct idea, by inspecting the engraved fac-simile of its opening page, which will be found facing page 1 of this volume. The paper was highly discoloured, and the writing in some places much injured by time; the character of it was at first not easily deciphered, so that many parts were for a time almost wholly unintelligible ; and the name of the writer no where appearing, furnished a further source of difficulty. This first pocket Journal or Diary extends only to the 128th page of the present volume: detached fragments of another MS. were, however, discovered, leaf after leaf, in a very tattered condition, in a loft of a farm-house not far from the old mansion ; these were quickly recognised, among heaps of waste paper, as being in the same hand-writing, and proved to be a counterpart of the other. The intrinsic value of the document, as a whole, being at length ascertained, no obstacle that presented was sufficient to deter from a close investigation of the subject; nor could any after-discouragements prevail to turn aside the conclusion, which now results in producing such treasure, for the participation of my friends and the public.
I am unable to state, how this MS. came into the possession of the Barclays of Ury ; but, from the great intimacy which subsisted for several generations between that family and the Jaffrays, it is highly probable, that it was consigned by some branch of the latter to the care of the former, with a view to its publication. The most prominent design of the Writer, in taking down these observations on the Lord's goodness towards him, is set forth at the commencement of the Diary ; being expressively opened, by the introduction of two Scriptural
passages, which he there adopts as his motto, and to which, as a watchword, he often recurs-namely, that he might stir up himself, and engage his heart to the Lord for ever. Yet, besides this primary design of self-improvement, it becomes manifest as we proceed, that he includes a further object, and that he is not without hope, his successors, especially his children, may derive instruction from a recital of the passages and exercises of his life. Many interesting circumstances of his public career are, however, but slightly traced, while others are wholly passed over ; on which account, it was thought desirable, to endeavour to supply by Notes such additional information, as could at this distance of time be gathered from
An opportunity was likewise thus afforded, of illustrating in various ways the facts and sentiments adduced. AN APPENDIX OF NOTES AND ILLUSTRATIONS will therefore be found immediately at the close of the Diary; which, it is hoped, will in all cases be regularly turned to, at the place where the reference to it is given..
The disadvantages under which this plan was carried into effect, and the difficulties which were encountered, cannot in any adequate manner be understood by the general reader. It will, however, be only proper to mention, that, in pursuing these investigations, I was led to travel much further than could have been anticipated, and over a great deal of ground, from which little could be gleaned that was convertible to my purpose ; and that no personal labour nor expense has been spared which seemed likely to contribute to it,—however imperfectly, after all, my own wishes in regard to this part of the Work are fulfilled. I must here acknowledge the very kind assistance I have derived from some of my friends, and also from some literary characters both at Edinburgh and Aberdeen; towards the latter, as I have no personal acquaintance with them, I cannot but consider myself the more indebted for their prompt attentions. In drawing up these illustrations, I always preferred making use of original matter and original sources of authority, where it could be done, rather than inserting
statements in my own terms, though grounded upon intermediate or even original testimony. Fully sensible how much they need indulgence, I shall be well satisfied, if those to whose hands the Work may come, are led, by a careful examination of the Notes, more fully to appreciate the nature of those circumstances to which the Diary alludes; but above all, the spirit of those reflections, which with so much lively weight and ingenuous simplicity he unfolds.
With regard to the character of the times in which Alexander Jaffray lived, especially the times of the Commonwealth, there has been a great disparity of opinion, according to the favourable or unfavourable medium, through which persons have been disposed to view this question. I would, however, venture to submit the following passage from a modern publication, as embracing some just and judicious considerations.
“Of the true state of religion during the period of Cromwell's government, it is difficult to form an accurate estimate. Judging from certain external appearances, and comparing them with the times which followed, the opinion must be highly favourable. Religion was the language, and the garb of the court ; prayer and fasting were fashionable exercises ; a profession was the road to preferment; not a play was acted in all England for many years, and from the prince to the peasant and common soldier, the features of Puritanism were universally exhibited. Judging, again, from the wildness and extravagance of various opinions and practices, which then obtained—and from the fanatical slang, and hypocritical grimace, which were adopted by many merely to answer a purpose our opinion will necessarily be unfavourable. The truth, perhaps, lies between the extremes of unqualified censure, and undistinguishing approbation. Making all due allowance for the infirmity and sin, which were combined with the profession of religion--making every abatement for the inducements, which then encouraged the use of a religious vocabulary-admitting that there was even a large portion of pure fanaticism, still, we apprehend, an immense mass of genuine religion will remain.