A. D. 1685.
As effects stand related to second causes, they are many times contingent;
but as to the first cause, they are acts of His council, and directed
by His wisdom. God can choose better for us than we for ourselves, when
he grants not our prayers in what is most agreeable to our present desires;
yet he really grants them, not only by way of equivalence, (to use Dr.
Hammond's expression in another case,) but of running over, denies us
what is good, and gives what is much better for us, as I found in my
next attempt of this nature.
Mr. Thomas Wilson, who accompanied me when I took leave at Sprustey, recommended his wife's sister. Anna, the comely and virtuous daughter of Mr. Richard Sykes, senior lord of the manor of Leeds, &c. I was very solicitous for divine directions, and prayed fervently for guidance in a matter of so great concern to me, both in respect of this world and a future. And it pleased God to hear and answer, so that we were joined together in holy matrimony, in the parish church of Ledsham, by Mr. Hammond, the vicar, my father Sykes living then at Ledsham Hall, (now the estate of the pious and Right Honourable Lady, the Lady Elizabeth Hastings,) Feb. 25, 1684, a day of mercy never to be forgotten by me or mine, having since that happy moment enjoyed her endeared society thirty-five years, (in which space it has pleased God to give us six sons and four daughters,) and I have by experience found her to be the greatest blessing, she being eminent for piety and devotion, meekness, modesty, and submission, though there has rarely been occasion to try this, except in matter of the baptizing and education of our children, (after I changed my sentiments as to conformity, of which in the sequel,) and singular prudence in a provident management of the family concerns. Notwithstanding our designed privacy, we were met at our return to Leeds by about 300 horse.
But our joy was presently turned into mourning, for the death of the
King, which was bewailed with many tears, for the gloomy prospect of
popery. The license was taken out in King Charles the Second's time,
and we were married the very next week, yet King James II. was then
upon the throne; the hectoring of some Romanists in the neighbourhood,
and their Popish servants abusing the town's watch, increased my fears.
Upon the landing of the Duke of Monmouth, not only such as had been engaged in the late wars were committed prisoners to Hull, but many good old ministers, and such private gentlemen, as were obnoxious to the censure of the Court, or their correspondents in the country: among the rest, my father Sykes, though he had carried very kindly to the Royalists, when he was a justice of the peace.
I accompanied him to the Lord Down's, who was very respectful, entertained us genteelly, and, which was more, permitted him to return home for some time. We were also at another justice's and deputy lieutenant's, Sir John Boynton's, whose lady was nearly related ;* but a person of that eminency in the late times, and who had married a most notorious republican's daughter,! could not long be kept * Sir John Boynton, of Rawcliffe, was married to Frances, daughter of John Bernard, an Alderman of Hull, by Mary Sykes, his wife, aunt to Mr. Sykes, of Ledsham.
This was Thomas Scot, Esq. of West Thorpe, county Bucks, Member in the Long Parliament for Aylesbury, and Member of all Cromwell's Parliaments. He sat on the trial of the King, and affixed from durance, though not long detained in it, for upon dispersing Monmouth's forces in the West, they were released.
In the mean time, the High Sheriff, Captain Tankred, and the Deputy Lieutenants, came to Leeds, and summoned me, with many other Protestant Dissenters, to appear before them ; but nothing, save Nonconformity, being objected against me, I was immediately dismissed, and returned to dine with relations, many of whom had been invited before we knew of this little remora.
One of the first hardships put upon us in these parts was, quartering soldiers in gentlemen's houses and private families: I had two for my share, and afterwards an officer of a good family in the neighbourhood, (Sir Henry Goodrick's kinsman,) but himself no saint. The danger that our holy religion was now in, from the common enemy, made me more sensible of, and I hope penitent for, a practice I had unwarily (since my marriage into a family, which, though very pious, was more averse to the public establishment than ours had ever been,) and insensibly slipped into, viz.: reading some piece of practical divinity at home to my family, when I should have been joining with the congregation in public. For this, though good at other times, has, neither so good success, nor promises made to it in Scripture; I therefore more constantly, as heretofore, joined in the public prayers and worship, as judging the Church of England the strongest bulwark against Popery, and a union of Protestants absolutely necessary.
Upon a surmise that the chapel at Mill Hill, whereof I was, in my father's right, one of the proprietors, might, by a mandamus, be converted into a mass-house, we had a private consultation, and resolved to convert it into an hospital, or sell it, and appropriate the monies to the use of the poor, so that, what was designed for the increase of piety, might terminate in charity. My curiosity, when at Pontefract, had tempted me to step into the mass-house there, where the gaiety of the altar, and gesticulations of that worship, presently satiated me. Father Norris, the Jesuit, after he had taken his text, and a little opened it, kneeled down to invo-cate the Virgin Mary, or, to judge more charitably, the Divine assistance, and all the people in a moment were upon their knees, I standing, like a foolish may-pole, in the midst of them ; whereupon I hasted to the door, but one of the priests was got thither before me, and held the door in his hand. I told him, with anger enough, that I would not fall down, or be imposed upon as to my gesture ; he said I should not, and by this time all were on their feet again, so I stayed a little to hear him preach, (for if the mass had been celebrating, I should have thought it idolatry, and durst not have been under the same roof;) and to give him his due, he made a good moral discourse against keeping bad company, which was seasonable to me, who was never in the like before or since. To this, may not unfitly be added, that though I was never fond of cards, yet was once tempted with relations upon a Christmas-day, (after I had been at church in the forenoon,) to spend too much of the afternoon (it being a week day,) in that wicked diversion, which caused me much sorrow upon reflection; for, though being educated a Dissenter, I had no great veneration for the festivals, yet was sensible that so eminent an instance of the Divine benignity should have been commemorated in a quite different manner, and have ever since, for more than thirty-five years, and I hope for ever, wholly thrown them aside.