by Samuel Bownas (1676-1753)

Originally published in 1750 in England.

This edition was has certain changes in word usage and punctuation (described in the Editor’s Preface below) to ease reading by the modern reader. It was published in 1989 by Pendle Hill Publications & Tract Association of Friends, Philadelphia, used here by their kind permission.

Table of contents


Mind the Lord, and stand in his will and counsel. Look not forth at time nor place, but at thy Father’s house, wheresoever thou art. And dwell in the pure measure of God in thee…. For the bringing forth many out of prison art thou there set; behold, the Word of the Lord cannot be bound…. Dear heart, be valiant, and mind the pure Spirit of God in thee, to guide thee up unto God
     —George Fox Epistle 113, To a Friend in the ministry

We are in a period of change, when some old values are near to being lost. It is vital that Friends take stock of their inheritance, and, looking to their Foundation, realize anew what those strengths were which enabled them to endure many difficulties and gave them an influence far beyond their numbers. The nurture of a vocal ministry which is more than intellectually able—although intellect can have a part in a well-rounded spiritual experience—is a matter of paramount concern if the life within our Society and its impact without are to continue. The nurture of a true gospel ministry is of paramount concern if the great work of carrying the gospel of Jesus to the world, which is the ultimate purpose of all Christian endeavor, is to go forward.

This new publication of an old work, which sets forth ably and fully the nature and practice of true gospel ministry, may help in strengthening and upbuilding a revival today. Not every reader may agree with everything the author has to say, but all will recognize the clear and logical way it is presented, and it will repay thoughtful reading. The publishers hope it may not only help preserve the old values in which the life of the Quaker community is rooted, but show that such values are indeed new, since all truth is timeless: as fresh and meaningful now as when Samuel Bownas journeyed tirelessly to what were then the far places in order to minister to needs there. The far places of today are different from those of the seventeenth century, but there are still far places and there are still the same needs, and a need for a dedicated ministry to meet them.

…at the hearing of the speech of the true minister, there is a joy to all that seek and thirst after righteousness; for the preaching the gospel is the glad tidings, the joyful news, and is a comfort to soul, body and spirit, to all that receive it.
     —George Fox, Epistle 312, On ministry in worship

The cooperation of Pendle Hill and the Tract Association in preparing this work for publication is a new departure which we feel is a sign of healthy growth in our Society. The interrelation of different groups with differing directions and emphases may well lead mutually to the strengthening of their work and the enrichment of all.

The advice and assistance of all whose efforts and lively concern have contributed to this publication are deeply appreciated by the Tract Association of Friends.
     —James Deane, Tract Association of Friends

Editor’s Preface

This volume of Samuel Bownas’s A Description of the Qualifications Necessary to a Gospel Minister is a revised reprint of an early edition, published in 1767. Work proceeded from a fragile original copy which resides in the Pendle Hill library, and editorial decisions were guided by a single purpose: enhanced readability for a late twentieth-century audience.

Capitalization of common nouns has been eliminated, and italicization retained only when serving the modern function of special emphasis. British spellings have been retained, since they are familiar to most readers of the English language.

Eighteenth-century punctuation has been streamlined. Very lengthy sentences have, where possible without altering meaning, been broken up around appropriate clauses; in some of these cases, conjunctions have been deleted.

An inconsistently applied system of topic enumeration has been eliminated.

Verb forms have been modernized, except in biblical quotations: for example, findest becomes finds; administerest becomes administers; saith becomes said. For reasons of consistency and euphony, the nominative thou has been replaced with thee. Thus, “thou art clear” becomes not “thou are clear” but rather “thee is clear”.

Traditional usage of masculine pronouns and terms has been retained, but Bownas’s meaning should not be misconstrued. The careful reader will note that Samuel Bownas did use gender-inclusive language, though inconsistently. We know that he was indeed writing for both women and men as equally apt recipients of the gift of gospel ministry.

The many biblical quotations have been made precisely consistent with the King James Version, which Samuel Bownas would have known and used. Where obvious paraphrases or references occur and are not noted in the original, citations have been added. However, biblical language pervades the entire work. The reader is encouraged to cultivate an appreciation such as biblically steeped eighteenth-century Friends would have possessed for the depth of Samuel Bownas’s connection to the scriptural tradition.

Qualifications remains, as the publishers intended, essentially unaltered as an eighteenth-century work. Modern literary sensibilities may render Samuel Bownas’s style grandiloquent, his construction awkwardly repetitive and roundabout. The reader is thus encouraged to meet Bownas in his own literary world by adopting a slowed, meditative pace. With this adjustment, the rich language can be savored, and the periodic sentences allowed to build like a series of waves to the fullness of each point.

Through each of the many readings required to edit this work faithfully, I have experienced not tedium or saturation, but rather a fresh invitation to enter still more deeply into the living tradition Samuel Bownas describes. The reader is similarly invited.
     —Gay Nicholson, Pendle Hill Publications


In the last few years a number of Friends have rediscovered the little book by Samuel Bownas which has had an important influence on Quaker ministers since its first publication in 1750. Bownas’s description of the ideal development of a Quaker minister seems especially relevant in these closing years of the twentieth century when so many Friends are digging deep for a fresh understanding of our roots. Since most of the surviving volumes can be found only in rare Quaker libraries, people have had to make do with photocopies, as have students in my classes about Quaker ministry at Pendle Hill and Haddonfield (N.J.) Monthly Meeting. The enthusiasm of these students and the hunger of many Friends for more readily available resources from our spiritual heritage led to this revised reprint.

The first few pages of this introduction are intended to make a bridge between the world of Samuel Bownas and the modern Quaker reader. The remainder points to the story of his life as a good example of what he tried to teach Friends about ministry.

Because Samuel Bownas’s eighteenth-century world was—in some ways—so different from our own, the modern reader will find it helpful to read this book on several levels. The first level involves a sympathetic understanding of the evolving Quaker culture which Samuel Bownas experienced and was trying to edify. The second level involves sympathetic attention to an important part of that culture its theology and language. Some readers who might otherwise be offended or turned away by Bownas’s Christian and biblical language may be helped by understanding that he, like George Fox, saw Quakerism as a rediscovery of original Christianity, or to use a modern term, “alternative Christianity.” It was a rediscovery not only in terms of outward ethical practice, but also in terms of theology and states of consciousness. Bownas’s use of this traditional language grows out of Fox’s illuminating way of expanding and explaining orthodox Christian language in his Journal and other writings. [The content of Chapter IV, “Advices as to the matter and manner of expression,” suggests that biblical themes and allusions were a substantial part of eighteenth-century Quaker ministry.] Finally, the third level of reading involves a more meditative process of identifying Bownas’s practical spiritual wisdom, which can apply to the nurture and support of a living ministry in our own time.

From the very beginning, Friends have recognized that some women and men are especially called and gifted in the vocal ministry. When George Fox died in 1691, and Samuel Bownas was only fifteen years old, the Quaker system of ministry had already been firmly established and would continue, with only minor changes and adjustments, past the middle of the nineteenth century. Fox had urged that ministers, when traveling to visit other meetings, should carry some sort of credential from their monthly meetings. This custom still survives in what is called a traveling minute. In his lifetime, British Quakers were recorded or recognized as a minister by being present at the Second Day meeting of ministers in London, and after 1724 by action of their monthly meeting. In North America, the responsibility for authenticating and recording the minister was assumed by monthly meetings at an earlier date.

After 1860, the system began to evolve into the pastoral or programmed tradition among large groups of North American Quakers. London Yearly Meeting ceased to record ministers after 1924, hoping to lay the responsibility for ministry more broadly upon the entire membership. Most unprogrammed Friends around the world have also given up the practice of recording—or they never had it, as in the case of the newer yearly meetings. Here and there in North America, it is still possible to find a modern unprogrammed Friend who has been recorded as a minister. Even so, the old system has changed so much in the twentieth century that only among a few pockets of Conservative Friends would Samuel Bownas now recognize the style of ministry familiar to him. In recent years there has been a growing interest in recovering the power which Quaker ministry once had, and a few people, often younger Friends, have once again begun to feel called into traveling ministry, home visitation, and “opportunities,” all of which were common among Friends before the twentieth century, and have never entirely disappeared.

When the young Samuel Bownas spoke his first words in meeting a few years after George Fox’s death, he took the first outward step in the classic development of a Quaker minister, but he had already experienced the all-important inward qualification. Qualification, as he uses the word, implies that one has gone through a process of personal transformation which reorients the ego, the will, and the attention so that one can be trusted purely to receive and purely to give forth an inspired message. Bownas insists that a substantive transformation should occur before real ministry can begin, or as William Penn said of early Friends, “They were changed men themselves before they sought to change others.” He describes this transformed state with a term which may be difficult for some modern Friends: sanctification. Actually, anyone who has been moved to pick up this book has probably already experienced some measure or glimmering of sanctification, as in those moments when we have a new clarity, a new freedom to, in John Woolman’s words, “turn all that we possess into the channel of universal love.” However, we must not gloss over the fact that Bownas uses sanctification in a biblical and Christian context, and that this first step towards the ministry is usually preceded by a difficult and sometimes anguished struggle, often described in the early pages of journals written by Quaker ministers.

Most twentieth-century unprogrammed Friends are shy about saying that we are sanctified or even that we have fully passed through the purging, ego-altering fires of personal transformation. “If this be the requirement,” we would say, “who dare speak in our meetings?” In this uncomfortable place Samuel Bownas can help modern Friends who minister in meeting to ponder if there are indeed deeper places from which ministry can flow, if there are indeed yet deeper levels of self-knowledge and yet deeper levels of pure attentiveness beyond the reach of the ego’s hidden agenda.

A careful, sympathetic reading of Bownas’s book and some Quaker journals [See Howard H. Brinton, Quaker Journals: Varieties of Religious Experience Among Friends, Pendle Hill Publications, 1972.] can gradually help a modern Friend begin to sense the difference between ministry that flows only from the intellect or from the emotions, and ministry that wells up from a deeper source. Similarly, such painful pondering can lead Friends to recognize that sometimes our speaking in meeting is partly to convince and convert ourselves, and that sometimes such speaking might be more appropriate in a gathering other than meeting for worship.

It is almost as if, in the late twentieth century, Bownas’s first qualification does not tend to occur before one speaks in meeting, but rather stretches out over a number of years, gradually transforming and eventually bringing that person’s life and spoken ministry to a deeper level. However, the classic convincement and transformation experience does still happen to some modern Friends before they ever speak in meeting, and we can assume that this will continue to be the case, perhaps increasingly so as the current wave of renewal deepens.

A second qualification Bownas describes results from the belief that ministers’ outward style of living should bear witness to their inward transformation, a belief which later resulted in the retention of archaic patterns of dress and behavior. Some modern readers may find Bownas a bit strident or old-fashioned on this point, until we realize that he is simply saying that the inward must always bear fruit in the outward. Even in our hurried era, might we listen more readily to a man here or a woman there who seems to have achieved a serenity and a visible integrity of life which give power to their words?

The second chapter and much of the rest of the book deal with the third fundamental qualification for Quaker ministry which is made possible by the preceding two. This is the ability to know when one is called to speak and when one must remain silent, so that ministry comes from the Spirit rather than from some other source. Here it is especially important to recognize how different Bownas’s Quaker culture was from ours. For example, in his time few people spoke in meeting except recorded ministers or those who were moving toward becoming recorded. Such ministers were experienced in discerning the difference between a true inward motion to speak and a mere notion to speak, or they were rapidly gaining such experience, and they could expect to be eldered (cautioned or corrected) if they strayed too far from this qualification. Experienced ministers might have spoken hundreds of times in scores of different places in Great Britain and North America, preaching sermons that were much longer than we could tolerate today. They set a high standard for anyone else who felt led to speak in meeting.

In our time, on the other hand, many more people take occasional responsibility for the ministry, but there are relatively few ministers who have gone through the long and arduous experience of learning by discerning that was typical of most ministers (sometimes called public Friends) of the eighteenth century. Perhaps thoughtful readers of this book may find insight into how, in our very different circumstances, we can develop the kind of nurture and fellowship which would help the growth of such experienced, discerning, dedicated ministry, so that it may once again flourish among us.

Samuel Bownas saw the long process of learning and growing in this third qualification as being divided into roughly three stages: the state of infancy in the ministry, the state of young man in the ministry, and the state of father in the ministry. As he describes growth on this path and offers practical advice for each stage, it again becomes clear how different his world was from ours. Yet, allowing for all these differences—concerning marriage customs, for example—the system of Quaker ministry that he describes still has a strong appeal for many Friends who long for its renewal in ways appropriate for our very different time. As we look to such a renewal, it is well to remember that the system he describes was never perfect and that it was constantly evolving. If it had been perfect, Samuel Bownas would not have written this book! [It is instructive to see how many of Bownas’s ideas about the nurture and behavior of ministers can be found in London Yearly Meeting’s first printed discipline, which appeared in 1783. A “between the lines” reading suggests that there had always been some traveling ministers who were insensitive or who abused the hospitality which was offered as a matter of course. As more people become led to travel in the ministry in our time, it is well to consider how modern Friends can also develop clear accountability and “quality control” of those who undertake this very important work.]

As Bownas’s description of the gradual qualification or apprenticeship proceeds, the modern reader becomes aware of one significant difference between the system of Quaker ministry then and now. To be a Quaker minister then meant that one had accepted a vocation, a calling, which was more important than one’s economic vocation and which often determined it or frequently interrupted it, as was true with Samuel Bownas. After becoming recorded, the minister’s apprenticeship became even more arduous and time-consuming than before. For one thing, there were more meetings to attend. Ministers and elders usually had to attend special meetings on the monthly, quarterly, and yearly meeting levels, and they felt a responsibility to attend the regular business meetings also. Travel to all of these meetings involved considerable time and often expense as well. A very real expense, especially for those who traveled some distance to yearly meeting or traveled for months or years at a time in ministry, was the time lost from productive economic activity. The “training” went on for a lifetime, even as already long experienced ministers traveled in pairs or with an elder, and as they visited with each other for counsel, encouragement, and spiritual refreshment. In this craft and vocation the Quaker minister was both very much alone and at the same time encouraged and sustained by a religious society which believed that God does indeed raise up individuals with a special gift and calling in the ministry.


Samuel Bownas’s life, which is summarized in the next few pages, is a good example of the kind of minister he describes in this book: a person who is called and transformed, who begins his ministry cautiously and gradually, who is responsive and obedient to wiser and more experienced Friends, and who devotes literally years of his life to his first vocation, ministry. Yet even when he becomes a “father” in the ministry, he remains a humble member of the body of Christ, speaking only as he is led. And he earns his own living, even paying most of his own expenses while traveling.

By the time he wrote A Description of the Qualifications Necessary to a Gospel Minister, Samuel Bownas had long been regarded as a “weighty” and gifted minister in North America and the British Isles, but, as he tells in his published journal, [An Account of the Life, Travels, and Christian Experiences in the Work of the Ministry of Samuel Bownas, London, 1756. Note: page numbers after Bownas quotations that follow are from this work.] he entered adulthood as a “traditional Quaker” who needed to be awakened by a traveling minister, just as he himself would later awaken hundreds of other people into new life. A second generation Friend, he was born in 1676 at Shap, Westmoreland, while the Society was still struggling for its life under Charles II. His father, who had been persecuted for holding meetings in his own home, died soon after Samuel’s birth, leaving the small family so poor that Samuel’s schooling ended when he was ten, old enough to tend sheep. At thirteen he was apprenticed to blacksmiths, first to an uncle who was unkind to him and then to Samuel Parat, near Sedburgh in Yorkshire, whom Samuel describes as “a very honest Friend.” As a child Samuel had heard stories about his father’s faithfulness. He had witnessed persecution when he and his mother worshiped with Friends locked outside their meetinghouse, and visited Friends in prison. Yet, in spite of this background, he began his apprenticeship as a young man who “had no taste of religion, but devoted myself to pleasure,” even though he dressed and spoke in the plain Quaker way. He did go to Brigflatts Meeting, where he spent most of his time sleeping.

Samuel records in his journal that at a First Day meeting in late 1696,

..a young woman, named Anne Wilson, was there and preached; she was very zealous, and fixing my eye upon her, she with a great zeal pointed her finger at me, uttering these words with much power: “A traditional Quaker, thou comest to meeting as thou went from it (the last time) and goes from it as thou came to it, but art no better for thy coming; what wilt thou do in the end?” This was so pat to my then condition, that, like Saul, I was smitten to the ground, as it might be said, but turning my thoughts inward, in secret I cried, “Lord, what shall I do to help it?” and a voice as it were spoke in my heart saying, “Look unto me, and I will help thee;” and I found much comfort, that made me shed abundance of tears. [5]

After this meeting the change in his life was remarkable:

I longed for the meeting-day, and thought it a very long week. When the time of meeting came, my mind was soon fixed and staid upon God, and I found an uncommon enjoyment that gave me great satisfaction, my understanding being opened, and all the faculties of my mind so quick, that I seemed another man. [6]

Suddenly, he found new levels of understanding about the Bible which had been “as a sealed book to me,” about preaching “in the power and the Spirit,” and about the enormous difference between a Quakerism “only by education” and a Quakerism truly alive to the Spirit.

Within just a few weeks, he spoke in meeting for the first time, beginning what he would later describe as his “infancy” in the ministry. His journal describes, with refreshing honesty, some of the details of this infancy and of the help and counsel he received from older Friends and fellow infants. By 1698, at the age of twenty-two, he set off walking toward Scotland on his first ministerial journey, carrying his traveling minute from the monthly meeting, which was by that time required of all traveling ministers. Then he felt led to buy a horse and to travel as a minister through much of England. After his first journey he no longer had a home or regular employment, but he sometimes stayed long enough in one place to earn enough money for clothing and necessities, usually from work during the harvest Season.

By the time he made a second journey to Scotland in 1701, he was already an experienced and well-regarded young minister, having passed through many trials, described or alluded to in his journal, which later helped him to be a psychologically perceptive mentor to young and infant ministers. Throughout his journal, but especially in these early years, he records many examples of how older and more experienced Friends encouraged and counseled him along the way. From his account it is clear that even though the Religious Society of Friends was then scarcely fifty years old, there was already a significant unwritten “science” about Spirit-guided ministry which experienced ministers and elders gladly passed on to the young men and women who were being called to it.

Elders were gradually assuming more and more responsibility for the nurture and care of all ministers, especially the young ones. Although there had been unofficial elders from the earliest years of the Society of Friends, they now began to be officially appointed to attend the special meetings of ministers to give advice and counsel as needed. Just as ministers were seen as having a special gift and calling, elders were seen as having a special gift of spiritual discernment, a strong sense of the Quaker tradition, and a gift for encouraging others in their spiritual growth. Although Qualifications was written primarily for young and infant ministers, it is also full of advice for those who would nurture them.

One example of Samuel’s trust in more experienced Friends occurred after his young fellow minister Isaac Alexander was sent home by the elders at Bristol for his hard preaching and repeated prophecies of “a great mortality to come there. Isaac accepted his treatment with humility, went home and continued to grow as a minister, because, said Bownas, young Isaac had humbly remained in unity with Friends. When Isaac had a concern to travel in the ministry again, his meeting would not grant him a traveling minute until they had received written clearness from Bristol Friends, who eventually wrote to say that he was “a sincere young man who intended very well, and they were glad he took their admonition right,” and that they were comfortable for him to resume travel in the ministry. In the meantime, Samuel Bownas had begun to feel a similar concern to prophesy about a great mortality in the city of London. However, after he had traveled to London, he called together a small group of experienced Friends to ask their advice before he allowed himself to preach on the subject that was burning within him. They listened with great tenderness as he explained how Isaac’s concern had been quashed by Bristol Friends and how he had then taken up the same concern. After a time of quiet, they gently told Samuel their sense that he was probably more influenced by his love for his friend Isaac than by the Holy Spirit. They did not, however, forbid him to preach; they simply advised him to wait, for if his concern were truly from God, it would grow stronger; if not, it would de-crease. And so it proved; the concern gradually went away, and Samuel and Isaac were both much wiser ministers and more kindly spiritual guides because they themselves had been treated with such tenderness.

By 1699 or 1700, “a young woman, who afterwards became my wife, had strong hold of my affections,” but they did not marry until after Samuel had journeyed in Scotland in 1701 and in North America from 1702 to 1706. As he set out across the Atlantic at the age of twenty-six, he was already an authoritative and much-traveled minister who had spoken in hundreds of meetings, many of them specially appointed at his request. Before sailing, he wrote a letter of advice to the Kendal meeting of ministers. The letter reveals that he was already a keen observer of the ministry of others and was beginning his lifelong service as a teacher and minister to his fellow ministers. As he modestly wrote in his journal, this letter was “the first fruits of that kind to my brethren.” Many of the topics he would develop in Qualifications are already touched upon.

During four years of travel, Samuel visited virtually every colonial Friends meeting at least once, if not several times. The vigor of his ministry among Friends and non-Friends on Long Island caused him to be imprisoned for almost a year at the instigation of George Keith, a contentious Quaker who had become an Anglican priest. In prison, Samuel used his time well, conversing with many people who came to see him. He also learned to make shoes, and made them so well and rapidly that he earned enough money to pay his prison expenses, as well as the expenses of the next stage of the journey.

In the Dover area in New England, Samuel felt a powerful concern to gather ministers together in a meeting which was a foretaste of many later meetings in which he would have very perceptive, very specific messages for fellow ministers. In this case,

some of them were got into an extreme of preaching and praying, and would continue meetings to an unseasonable length, as likewise in their preaching and praying at table…. They themselves say they were wrong in doing as they had done, and got out of this extreme, which was a degree of ranterism. [99]

Upon his return to England in 1706 he and his wife-to-be went through the steps preceding a Quaker marriage. For Samuel this meant returning to his home meeting in the north, where he turned in his traveling certificate (still the custom today) and reported on his travels to the monthly meeting. Then he asked for a certificate of his clearness for marriage. On the journey back to the south for the wedding he was accompanied by “my worthy friend James Wilson,” with whom he visited meetings along the way. Again we see Samuel as a mentor of other ministers: “I found my companion under a great concern to speak something in meetings, but very backward and reluctant to give up to it, but I gave him encouragement such as I was able.” When James ran into discouragement in the large Bristol meetings, Samuel “cheered him up as well as I could, by giving him an account of my experiences, and when we came to the little country meetings again, he did finely, and gathered strength and experience in the work very fast.”

Following the convention of most Quaker journal writers, Samuel did not say much about his marriage and family life, but what he did say makes it very clear that he loved his wife and deeply treasured their life together until her death in 1719. He also treasured the friendship of many of the ministers with whom he traveled or who came to visit him. Scattered references in other Quaker journals make it clear how much other ministers valued his friendship and spiritual support.

By the time of his second marriage to “the widow Nichols” in 1722, he had begun to record other occasions when he spoke with authority as a teacher to his fellow ministers, and he had noted several times the danger of a for-mal, plain Quakerism which by-passed the need for inward rebirth and purging from pride.

When the fifty-year-old Samuel Bownas made his second journey to North America in 1726, he must have been in his prime as a minister, as described in Joseph Besse’s preface to his published journal:

His conversation was free, generous and affable; neither did he shun the society of those whom he was sent to convert…. He was of a grave deportment, and of a tall, comely and manly aspect. His public preaching was attended with such a divine authority and majestic innocence, as commended the attention of his hearers; and his voice being clear, strong and distinct, was capable of conveying his profitable exhortations to the ears and understandings of a very numerous auditory. [vi]

In eighteen months he traveled some 5,322 miles through heat and bitter cold, visiting most meetings from two to six times, missing only seven “far back in the woods.” In the twenty years since his previous visit, Quakerism in North America had greatly expanded; he counted fifty-six new meetinghouses and many enlarged ones, but he was greatly concerned that young Friends were growing up into a formal Quakerism and that they were not so alive spiritually as the previous generation. Clearly, he had become what he describes in Qualifications as a “parent” in the ministry, for he gave long messages to the meetings of ministers and elders in many places. The fact that these meetings were unusually well-attended, even by ministers and elders from other places, suggests that Samuel’s teaching ministry to ministers and elders was much valued. His occasional journal record of these meetings contains much of the subject matter and many of the expressions which later appear in Qualifications.

After his return to wife and home in 1728, he went on no major journeys until 1740, though he certainly attended and probably often preached at neighboring monthly meetings, quarterly meetings, and at yearly meeting. Apparently he devoted enough attention to business during these years so that a 1738 letter could describe him as

a wealthy merchant out of Dorsetshire, a punctual payer of the King’s duties, and a detester of the smuggling trade. He delivers vast quantities of excellent goods, gives large measure and good pennyworth. It is said he was a blacksmith somewhere about Sedburgh in his young years, not then worth five pounds per annum, but I really think he has been at the university since he left the anvil, for even while he is expressing his traffic he talks like a philosopher and returns as much in a week as some do in seven years. He is now very able and rides like a Parliament man. [David Hall to James Wilson, 4 mo. 24, 1738, Skipton, Yorkshire, Alfred Rodman Hussey Collection, Haverford College.]

This evidence of the respect and prosperity he had earned as a merchant makes an interesting commentary on the careful advice he gives to ministers engaged in business in Qualifications. Like so many others in the 350-year succession of Quaker ministers, he had observed that faithful ministers almost always developed a “competency,” a means of employment which made it financially possible to leave home for long periods of time. Samuel’s competency was substantial enough that he could write, two years before his death, that he then had an income of forty pounds a year, quite adequate for that time and place.

When he felt a renewed call to travel in 1740, he continued to be given a special ministry in meetings of ministers and elders, as well as in the regular meetings. During the three months he was in Ireland, he attended about eighty-two meetings. He cut short further visits because of his wife’s illness in the latter part of 1740.

He recorded no more visits until after her death in 1746. Then, for the next three years, he made more visits, though his journal now records fewer details as his energy and power fail. To the very end he had messages for other ministers, as in the Second Day morning meeting for ministers just after the 1740 London Yearly Meeting: “I was much drawn forth to the ministers, the meeting being very large with country Friends.”

As his powerful ministry to ministers was drawing to a close, Qualifications was published in 1750, when he was seventy-four years old. No doubt Friends had long encouraged him to put his insights about ministry into writing. After 1749 he had quit writing in his journal, for his hands shook and his eyes were weak. Yet he continued to attend his own and neighboring meetings as long as possible, and Friends remembered that “his ministry was lively and powerful to the last, to the edification and comfort of those that were favored with it.” (197-198)
     —William P. Taber, Jr.