WEBMASTER’s Note: This is a recent picture of Joanna Southcott’s Box which is currently in the custody of the Panacea Society.
The following information on the history of the box was written in 1929 by Mary Robertson, a follower of Joanna’s and covers the earlier history of the Box.
By: MARY ROBERTSON, L.L.A. 1929
“Let them bring them forth, and show us what shall happen:
let them show the former things, what they be, that we may consider them,
and know the latter end of them; or declare us things to come.”
(Isaiah xli, v. 22).
A SACRED TRUST TO THE BRITISH NATION.
In the simple guise of a “Box of Common Wood” the British Nation has held in its midst, for just over one hundred and twenty years, what must be called its most Sacred Trust, a Trust divinely given, and nobly held. As public interest grows on the subject of the Southcott Box of Sealed Writings, and speculation as to its contents increases, so arises the need to-day to gather together from the Southcott Works, published and unpublished, all the available evidence that goes to make up its “strange, eventful history.”
In the letters and private journals of the old Believers, the Box is constantly referred to as the “Spiritual Ark;” a favourite phrase being “The Ark of The New Covenant.” For them it held the “Testimony of the Lord” as did the first Ark of sacred history for the Children of Israel. (Exodus, chapter xxv). It is particularly interesting at this point to recall the fact that the word “ark” means, in the Hebrew, merely a covered chest or box. Equally significant is the derivation of the word “British,” which comes from two Hebrew words, meaning “Covenant People.” Why then, need it be a matter for surprise or ridicule, that in Britain, where the descendants of Ephraim to whom the promise was made (Gen. xlviii, 15), found a home, the Covenant has been renewed in these latter days; or that, as a logical sequence, the “Ark of the New Covenant” should rest? Have we, as a people, forgotten that within the old, grey walls of Westminster Abbey rests also the Stone of Destiny, even Jacob’s Stone (Genesis xxviii) of which Dean Stanley writes:—“Of all national emblems, and of all our national treasures, it is probably the most wonderful that our island home possesses.”
As in the beginning, no palatial residence housed the everlasting glory of the Son of God; so, in the end, no golden sarcophagus, encrusted with priceless jewels, has housed since 1794, the eternal beauty of the “Testimony of the Lord,” to be revealed in His appointed time—an hour that, according to prophecy, “neither men nor devils can frustrate.”
It was in 1792, that the powerful visitation of the Lord came to Joanna Southcott, whose heart He prepared from the beginning for His great work, and whose perfect obedience to His will rendered it possible for the Infinite
loving Father thus to renew His Covenant with her and with His people: “Now will I swear unto thee, as I did unto Abraham, unto Isaac and unto Jacob (Israel); I will make with thee an Everlasting Covenant—as I kept nothing from Abraham, so will I keep nothing from thee, and I will bear thee witness. What I put in thy mouth, that will I do upon the earth” (“Strange Effects of Faith,” p. 27)—powerful words—powerfully borne out by subsequent history.
The Box or Ark, its sealed bundles of Writings inviolate since Joanna Southcott’s death, in 1814, awaits in safe custody the will of the twenty-four Bishops or their clergy representatives, who, according to prophecy, will demand, “in the time of danger” (Pascoe MSS.) to investigate its contents—the Sealed Writings that are “The Testimony of the Lord,” even the “Leaves of the Tree of Life for the Healing of the Nations.” When all else has failed and the wisdom of man proves impotent before some acute crisis in the Empire’s history, then the promise stands sure:— “They’ll find the key for all is there.” (“ II Book of Visions,” p. 8).
It was while in Exeter, in 1794, two years after Joanna began to write by the dictates of the “still, small voice” of the Spirit of Truth, that she was ordered to sign and seal her Writings, then to hand them over to friends, who were at the end of each year to place them “within a Box.”
This method of dealing with the prophetic Writings continued until 1800, when they were opened, at the request of the Rev. J. Pomeroy. Some were copied for the investigation of the clergyman; others retained for publication; the remainder, resealed before six witnesses, were, “in the spring of 1801, placed in the Box, which was then nailed up, never to be broken open till brought into the presence of the twelve who will meet as judges of them,” which prophecy was verified at High House, Paddington, in January, 1803.
Towards the close of 1801, there arrived in Exeter for the purpose of fully investigating the claims of the Prophetess, the “Seven Men” or pioneers of the movement, of whom the best known are the Rev. T. P. Foley, the Rev. Stanhope Bruce, the Rev. Thomas Webster, and William Sharp, the eminent engraver.
Their later searching investigation occupied seven days and resulted in the firm belief of all in the Visitation of the Spirit to Joanna Southcott. On the eve of their departure, Joanna was directed to place all her writings in their care, for “Thy Trial is deep and too great to be tried in this city, so all thy Writings must be removed to London, where thy Cause will be tried.” (Unpublished MSS. of Jan. 2nd, 1803). Thus it was, that when the Seven, on Jan. 4th, boarded the coach, they carried with them the whole of the Prophetic Writings. The Box was put into the custody of Mr. Sharp, who relates the following interesting incident in the history of his charge:—“Whilst I was at Bath, on my return from Exeter to London, I had a large case made, which enclosed the whole Box, for the cords around it were sealed with seven seals and I had a quantity of
tow put between the Box and the case, to preserve the seals from being broken.” (Sharp’s “Answer to the World,” p. 5). Henceforward, then, we have a “Box within a Box” which, upon its arrival in London, was conveyed by Mr. Sharp to his residence in Titchfield Street, where, save for two short journeys, it seems to have remained during the lifetime of the Prophetess.
Mr. Sharp takes up the thread of his narrative:—“The Writings remained secure with me until conveyed to the High House, Paddington, where the Box was opened in the presence of above forty persons assembled by public notice, on Jan. 12th, 1803.” This examination (for seven days) of the Sealed Writings by twelve judges and twelve jurymen, in the presence of Joanna and other friends, constitutes The First Trial, upon which further light is thrown by an interesting entry from the journal of one of the judges, the Rev. T. P. Foley, who writes, “On May 2nd, 1803, such of Joanna’s Writings as were not set aside for publication, were sealed up and put into the same box as they were in at Exeter. The Box was then deposited in a safe place. These were the identical Writings opened on Jan. 12th, during the trial, and proved as coming from the Most High God.” In the same journal, Mr. Foley speaks of the “Great Box” thus differentiating it from any other.
In Dec., 1804, took place at Neckinger House, Bermondsey, for seven days (7th – 11th), what constitutes The Second Trial, before an attorney and a double jury of forty-eight believers, instead of the twenty-four bishops or clergy, who still refused to come forward. This event is of peculiarly deep import as being the type or shadow of the “Great Trial” that will surely be called by the “great and the learned” as predicted, when the “Ark” may be opened and the Sealed Writings, preserved therein for over 120 years, removed for examination. The exact time of this event is known to the Lord only, as this prophecy makes clear:—“As to thy Trial by men, it will come on in a day and hour no man knoweth, to show the likeness of My Coming in a day and hour unawares, so will thy ‘Great Trial’ come, unknown and unawares, when my appointed time is come, that is concealed from all. Men judge from the times My Kingdom is at Hand: in this their judgment is clear, but the manner in which it will be brought about is beyond the Judgment of Men.” (Unpublished MSS., given April, 1806). Joanna herself only knew that it would take place “after her death.”
Towards the conclusion of “The Book of The Trial” which describes in full the legal procedure of the “Second Trial,” we read that Joanna, as directed by the Spirit, “sealed up the Writings to be kept till after her death, which she delivered to one of her judges” (i.e. Sharp, custodian of the Box).
A remarkable prophecy on this event runs thus:—“I now tell thee, as thy Writings have been hid and twice* cut open and proved by man, and yet as the Promise that was made (the complete vindication of the Visitation) is not fulfilled, they must wait till the third time, that cometh by Friends and Foes” (i.e. 24 Believers and 24 Bishops).
No direct reference is found in the published Works as to whether anything further was added to the contents of the Box, although possibly this was done as in former years, until we find in the “Second Book of Wonders,”
* At Paddington and Bermondsey.
published in 1813, these striking words:—“I cannot enter into particulars of what was revealed to me, as it was ordered to be sealed up in the presence of the seven friends, and put into a box that is not to be opened till my Trial, and then will be seen what was revealed to me every day.” (p.4).
After the death of Joanna, in December, 1814, the “Ark” entered upon a series of “wanderings in the wilderness.” For the history of these we are indebted to the letters of old Believers, their scrupulously kept journals and a few rare pamphlets; but most of all to the long, delightful letters of the Rev. T. P. Foley (great-grandfather of the present Bishop of London).
In 1816, on the removal of Mr. Sharp to Chiswick, the care of the Box was undertaken by Miss Jane Townley (Joanna’s amanuensis and co-worker), of Weston Place, St. Pancras, until her death, in 1825, rendered necessary, other arrangements for its preservation. Dr. Owen Pugh, secretary of Miss Townley, with the unanimous consent of the other executors, wrote to the Rev. T. P. Foley, asking him if it would be convenient for him to receive the “Sealed Writings.” The reply of the “lionhearted” supporter of the Visitation was characteristic:— “With lively joy and gratitude to the Lord for this distinguished blessing, I will gladly receive the Writings and take the strictest care of them, and may I be found a true, grateful and courageous steward of these invaluable treasures, even unto death.” On June 11th, 1825, the Box arrived at Old Swinford Rectory, Worcestershire, there to be housed as an honoured guest. Just how seriously Mr. Foley regarded his office may be gathered from a remark made in a letter to a friend, in March, 1829:—“I am preserving the Spiritual Ark of God—and the Divine Writings are now as safe and un-touched as when deposited under my care. We must wait with patience and prepare ourselves for the time when the Lord assembles His soldiers to meet the storms of the Great Trial. I would gladly have gone with my wife and friends to Plymouth, but having the ‘Ark of the New Covenant’ in my house, I dare not leave it; I daily pray to be kept a firm and faithful champion of these great treasures till they are properly demanded from me by the Bishops, as set forth in Joanna’s Divine Writings.”
On the death of the Rev. T. P. Foley, in 1839, the custody of the Box, at the request of the Believers, passed to his son, the Rev. Richard Foley, of North Cadbury, Somerset, whose office proved no sinecure, owing to the determined attempts of a Mrs. Lavinia E. Chapman Jones to gain possession of the Sealed Writings. This lady even went so far as to beg the help of the Chartist demonstrators of 1840, to get as many signatures as possible to a petition to the Rector that he should give up the Box which she declared was “public property,” or that he should permit the contents to be copied. This petition having failed to achieve its objective, Mrs. Jones, disguised as a man, forced an entry into the Rectory, slipped upstairs and seized an old deal box. As she was leaving, however, Mr. Foley appeared upon the scene,
severely rebuked her and confiscated the stolen property, which, I may add, was not the “Great” box at all.
Mrs. Jones next circulated the report that the Box of Sealed Writings had been opened by Mr. Foley, and the public, therefore, had the right to know its contents. The Rector at once wrote to the leading Believers in different towns, acquainting them with the truth of the matter which is as follows:— After his father’s death, a considerable sum of money was missing and could nowhere be found. As the late Rector had, during the last years of his life, been in the habit of hiding money: search was made for it in every possible place, but to no purpose. Then it was decided that, in the presence of his mother, Elizabeth Foley (Joanna’s personal friend) and one of his brothers, the Box of Sealed Writings should be opened. Mr. Foley’s account of this incident to the Believers was:—“I positively declare that no seal was broken, and that all the papers were safely restored. Since then, they have been seen by no one; certainly not with my consent. The papers are kept in a Box, which itself is enclosed in another Box,—both are locked. Had the inner one been sealed, my object in searching would have been satisfied. The fact of the Box having been opened was never made a secret of, as under the circumstances, I conceived I was quite justified.”
This fact of supreme importance, coming at this juncture, removes for ever what has hitherto proved a great stumbling-block among the Bishops, who have of late publicly expressed a fear that, the Box being sent for, the contents might prove a hoax, and make them appear merely ludicrous in the eyes of the people. The clergy will probably have no hesitation in accepting the written word of one of their own cloth, attested by witnesses. This letter, with others of similar interest and importance, were discovered in a collection recently acquired in London, by Miss Alice Seymour (Biographer of Joanna Southcott), to whose unique Southcott Library I have had access, for purposes of research, during the past four years, and with whose assent this important fact is now, for the first time, made public.
In order to allay any anxiety among the Believers as to the safety of the Box, two prominent members, Mr. Samuel Jowett and Mr. Harrison on the invitation of the Rev. R. Foley, visited North Cadbury, for what the Rector quaintly termed, “an ocular demonstration that the Sealed Writings were in the same state of security as when committed to my father’s care.” A vote of confidence was passed in the custodian who was requested by a general letter from the friends, “to continue the same care to the writings as before.”
On the death of the Rev. Richard Foley in 1861, Mr. Samuel Jowett of Leeds (son of William Jowett, one of Joanna’s judges in 1804), elected as the new custodian by a vote of the Believers, travelled with a friend to North Cadbury to convey the Box to its new home in Yorkshire. The following receipt was given to the executors of the deceased Rector:—“This is to certify that I have this day received at North Cadbury Rectory, from Mrs. Bache and Mrs. Esther Pickthorn (sister to Richard Foley), the Box
of Sealed Writings belonging to the late Mrs. Joanna Southcott, committed to my care by the Believers in her Divine Mission as a Deed of Trust on their behalf.
Signed, Samuel Jowett.
On the arrival of the gentlemen at North Cadbury station, the “Great” Box had to be weighed, and thus its weight, 156 lbs., was, for the first time in its history, ascertained. From a letter of the custodian to his son we learn that “The Box is nailed up as well as being locked, we took a new cord with us to put round it for security.”
On the death of Mr. Samuel Jowett, the custodianship, again by a vote of the Believers, passed to his son, John M. Jowett, of Apple Hall, Bradford, where it remained until 1898. Of this period an interesting episode in the history of The Box was told me by a lady who saw it 30 years ago.* She writes:— “I remember, as we were looking at the Box, the custodian said to us, ‘Now at one time we (i.e. several Believers of the district) found that a mouse was gnawing its way through one corner, so we put it, for further safety, into a larger box.’” So the “Ark of the New Covenant” represents in itself a Triple or Triune Box, the innermost, the original of 1794, containing the authenticated, prophetic Writings, sealed on the outside by witnesses, of whom three, at least, were clergymen of the Church of England.
A son of the above mentioned custodian, to whom I am indebted for many interesting facts, writes: “We were taught, as children, to hold both the Box and the subject—Joanna’s Visitation and work—in veneration.” He also related the following incident, as told him by his father,—“A man, named Mr. J_____ (from America) called one day, saying that he had been instructed by the Lord to request the custodian to hand over to him the Box of Sealed Writings which he was to take away with him. My father smiled, and said he would have to disappoint him, as the Lord had not informed him of the nature of Mr. J____’s visit. He departed crestfallen.”
On the death of Mr. Jowett, in 1898, his son, acting on his father’s instructions, forwarded the “Sealed Writings” to their new custodian. On this occasion, the “Box” travelled South in the direction of its original resting place, where again it passed from the care of a father to that of a son. The last, conscious look of the father, as he lay dying, was directed towards “The Box” in his room, and then to his son, who answered the anxious glance with his promise to safeguard the “long-treasured” Writings. In accepting the Deed of Trust, ratified later by common consent of the Believers, the son, the new custodian, wrote, “As long as I hold the Sealed Writings they shall remain intact and uninjured, outside or within. No person whatever, professing to be a believer or not, shall obtain them from my possession, save and except they are demanded by the proper authorities in the Nation, which shall make the surrender imperative.” In such a spirit did each custodian accept the deed of trust and in each case has the object of that deed been preserved inviolate. Another attempt of comparatively
* A still more recent eye-witness to the actual existence of “The Box” is Miss Alice Seymour, who visited it under its present custodian.
recent years to gain possession of “The Box” by Judge M____, an American, who crossed the ocean seven times in a fruitless quest to discover its whereabouts, has brought into being, of late years, the “Unspoken Law”—that the hand of the custodian should be strengthened by limiting to as few as possible, the knowledge of the exact place of “safe-deposit” of the “Ark,” as well as the custodian spared an unnecessary and annoying publicity.
The attempts of this wholehearted Believer in the visitation to Joanna Southcott, to focus the attention of leading men in Church and State upon the “Great Box” can be read in a short pamphlet,* issued to the public in June, 1843, under the following title:—“Copies of deep and important Letters, addressed to The Queen, Prince Albert, the Archbishop of Canterbury and others, on the Cause of England’s Distress, and the Remedy.”
These letters were sent to such well known public personages as Lord Foley of Portman Square, Sir Robert Peel, Bart., The Archbishop of Canterbury, The Lord Bishop of London, His Grace, The Duke of Wellington, Lord John Russell, the Lord Bishop of Worcester, The Right Rev. Prelate, the Lord Bishop of Bath and Wells, etc.
56 Park Street, Birmingham, August 5th, 1842.
The enclosed† I received from London this day, and haste to inform you of the SEALED WRITINGS given to the late Joanna Southcott concerning the distressed state of the nation (also what will befall it), and as these same are to be demanded by the great and learned. I now acquaint you that the same are in the hands of the Rev. Richard Foley, late of Kingswinford, in your diocese; and to prevent the awful stroke from the Almighty God coming on this nation, I do hope you will cause the same to be demanded, to save this kingdom and give it the promised peace and happiness,
I am, my lord, your most obt. humble servant,
T. P. Hudson.
56 Park Street, Birmingham, August 7th, 1842.
The enclosed will be read by you, and as the revealed will of God to the late Joanna Southcott is sealed up until demanded by the great and learned, you will, I hope, adopt some plan for the opening of them, as they are full of prophecies, foretelling of things that are now taking place, and what will befall this land. Suffer not the just judgments of God from carelessness to come upon our country, but examine them, and give us your counsel.
I remain, etc., T. P. Hudson.
P. S.—They are in the possession of the Rev. R. Foley, late of Kingswinford; now of Cadbury Rectory, Somerset.
* Very few copies of this are now in existence.
† An address to the Anti-Corn Law League from the London Southcottian Church.
Birmingham, January 30th,1843.
Right Rev. Father in God,
I beg pardon for this intrusion, and as it is from the sincerest motives in which our nation at large is concerned, may God influence your mind, as a herald of His, to peruse and seriously weigh the contents of St. Paul, 1st Thess., ch. 5, v. 19 to 21; also keeping in view 1st Cor., ch. 1, v. 26 to 29; John, ch. 16, v. 15; Isaiah, ch. 28, v. 9 to 13. May it please your Grace to counsel me, and give such proof as will be a spiritual guide for me, and my brothers and sisters in the Lord, that we no longer labour under a delusion, if one; but it must of necessity be grounded on proof alone, as mere assertions are groundless and useless to arrest its progress.
We believe in the Visitation of an invisible Spirit speaking with a small, still voice within to Joanna Southcott, and that it was the Spirit of the living God, from the year 1792 to the close of 1814. She foretold by the Spirit what was coming on the earth—prophecies which came to pass, as witnessed by Miss Jane Townley, and her maid, Mrs. Ann Underwood, both of whom bore testimony, from 1804 to 1814, of their fulfilment. . . .
I now make known to your Grace that there exists to-day an abundance of the revealed Will of God given to His handmaiden, and which were ordered to be sealed up by Divine Command; all of which we understand are of the utmost importance to this nation in all its difficulties. These same are to be demanded by the great and learned of this land, and were deposited in the hands of the late Rev. Thomas P. Foley, of Oldswinford, Worcestershire; and are now in the possession of his son, the Rev. R. Foley of North Cadbury, Somerset. it is stated that nothing will save this nation from utter ruin, from god’s just judgments for their hardness of heart and contempt of his word and commandments, but the attention to those, his decrees, so sealed up. Then, if this is the only salvation for Our Nation and people, and this only will remove the Cause, is it not the imperative duty of the Shepherds to awake, to prevent the sheep from perishing from inattention, when their cost is only obedience to His just commands by which a remedy is accomplished: and then if found to be from our Heavenly Father, then publish His Decrees: if found a Delusion, then suppress it and turn into the right sheepfold thousands of men and women.
This is the Answer of the Lord to me:—“They shall be visited of the Lord of Hosts with Thunder and Lightning, Shipwrecks, with Earthquake and great Noise, with Storms, Tempests, and the Flame of devouring Fire.”* …… Demand the sealed writings left for england’s guide as given by our lord to joanna southcott, and you will find, when they are examined, that great peace and blessings are to follow. Until this is done, england will not find peace or happiness.
I remain, etc., T. P. Hudson.
P. S.—I feel confident if you were to bring this highly important business before the Lords in the House, and a grant was obtained for the demanding (i.e. The Box of Sealed MSS.), and the Bishops and Council of England were summoned to sit and consider and fairly judge these important Writings, then God would show His outstretched arm and clear up all Mysteries, and the people would be freed from all bondage.
T. P. H.
These efforts of Mr. Hudson and other well-known members of the Southcott Church, like the previous attempts of Mrs. Jones, proved futile as far as any examination of the Sealed Prophetic Writings was concerned; they were not, however, without effect, in that they brought once more to the attention of the heads of the Church, the existence of the “Great Box.”
* The Spirit of Truth.
A quiescent period followed for the Bishops, although the sixty-five published Southcott Works were eagerly read and in after years cherished by men and women abroad and at home. During these years Mr. Molineaux, a schoolmaster in the North, Mr. Pascoe, Mr. Pye and others, pursued their labour of love, writing out in their fine, clear handwriting, the large collection of unpublished MSS., in their possession—the whole forming a valuable “storehouse” of knowledge. These volumes of unpublished Communications are particularly interesting as they contain many private letters, as well as extracts from the personal diaries and journals of the Rev. T. P. Foley and his friends, the faithful co-workers of Joanna Southcott.
EXCERPT FROM “THE DAILY NEWS.”
In an interview in August, 1923, with a representative of “The Daily News,” Miss Seymour made the following statement which duly appeared in the columns of that paper:—“I have seen the Box. The writings remain intact and sealed as in 1814. The Box is not sealed externally, but is strongly roped and nailed. It is not in the care of a Church dignitary as has sometimes been stated, but in that of a good Churchman of position and integrity.”
Lambeth Palace, July l8th, 1923.
The Archbishop of Canterbury directs me to acknowledge the receipt of letter respecting the Box alleged to contain certain documents placed in it by Joanna Southcott.
The Archbishop has repeatedly urged that the Box be opened forthwith and has done his best to secure that this should be done. Those in charge however, have declined to act save under conditions* which would make the whole proceedings farcical.
You are doubtless aware that there are rival boxes in different parts of England which claim to be the authentic article.
The Archbishop requests that in anything you publish in this matter with regard to himself, this letter be made public.
G. K. A. Bell, Chaplain.
These so called “rival boxes” mentioned in the above letter are merely boxes of varying size which the Believers of Joanna’s time had made for the further security of the unpublished Communications, private letters, etc., in their possession. These men and women were but following a Southcott prophecy to the effect that all written matter connected with the Visitation would “one day go into print ”—a prophecy which is being to-day fulfilled in a wonderful manner.† The rousing of the Bishops to “sit in judgment on the Sealed Writings” is thus described by Ann Underwood in one of her letters to a friend:— “Ever since the Visitation began, Joanna constantly heard soft music a little away from her right ear, as of different instruments playing. On Saturday morning the sound seemed to break
* See page 14 for the conditions
abroad like the sound of many waters, when they arise by a flood, this continued some time, and then collected again into the same soft music as before.” This is compared by The Spirit of Truth to the stirring up of the Bishops by others. “Should the Bishops be careless, I tell thee, others will stir them up, for now thou wilt find, like the instruments of music that are softly playing one with the other, as all now seem silent, yet it will soon break abroad, like the sound of many waters, when the floods come down like fury, and break in from many places to join in a current stream, which makes the floods arise.”
From the “Daily News,” August 4th, 1923.
The Bishops and Joanna.
“Of the 49 Bishops of the Church of England with whom the “Daily News” has communicated about the opening of the Box, only 21 have thought the matter serious enough to require a statement. Not one of these has offered even to attempt to call a gathering of 24, as required, before the Box can be delivered up by the custodian. Six Bishops refuse under any conditions to take part in the opening of the Box; five express no opinion, but plead distance* or pressure of business from attending such a ceremony. Two Bishops criticise the conditions attached to the opening, and the remaining eight place themselves unreservedly in the hands of the Archbishop of Canterbury for the settling of the matter.”
The Year 1924.
This year is particularly noteworthy as it witnessed the discovery of two letters of great interest written by the Rev. Richard Foley† in 1840, telling his Southcottian friends how family affairs had necessitated his opening, in the presence of his mother and brother, of the Box of Sealed Writings, and how each sealed bundle of MSS. had been carefully restored. A printed letter pointing out the importance of this discovery was sent round to the Bishops, and later to the Press.
Surely the Bishops cannot doubt the word of an honoured member of their own cloth, who has declared that he returned the Sealed MSS. intact, to the “Great Box.”
This year proved (as far as the Box was concerned) a stirring and sensational one in the columns of the Daily Press. Early in April, the Papers recorded with dramatic effect the discovery in Hammersmith (London, S.W.) of what they termed a Southcott Box. Almost every paper
* From London, where the Box must be opened.
† Related to the present Bishop of London.
in the country had its flaming headline of an “Eerie scene in a London room, where, in the presence of four or five witnesses; a small, black, coffin-shaped box, roped, nailed and sealed, was opened.” Within were revealed but a copy of an old New Testament, tucked between whose leaves was a wisp of silvery hair, and a piece of old, torn parchment bearing a prophecy dated a few years before Joanna’s death, and purported to be signed by herself. This “Wonderful Box!” was declared to be the property of an old lady, a Miss Morristown, who, conveniently for those who tampered with her property, had suddenly disappeared. Miss Seymour furnished one of our friends in London with a copy of Joanna’s own signature asking him to visit the house in Hammersmith and verify the hand-writing on the prophetic document.
Unfortunately the wonderful Box and its strange contents had disappeared—so its disappearance was as sudden as its appearance. Perhaps it was despatched at midnight in a high-power motor-car to some mysterious and “hidden” destination. Thus ended the well-staged sensation of the year, and the tale of what is now known as “The Hammersmith Box.” It was not, however, without its “good effects” as many “true and genuine Southcott prophecies,” and many of the real facts about the “Great Box” were brought before the notice of the public. Our American friends and co-workers will be interested to hear that two of their fellow-countrymen visited Hammersmith for the express purpose of purchasing the box, if such a transaction were possible.
Towards the close of April the Bournemouth correspondent of the “Daily News” recorded a lengthy and interesting article on the discovery of what proved to be a genuine Southcott Box, one of those which some of the followers of the Prophetess had made expressly for the safe deposit of the unpublished Communications, private letters, diaries, etc.
THE DOCTOR’S BOX AT BOURNEMOUTH.
This box was opened towards the end of April, by the doctor and his family in whose care it had been for many years. Having decided to take the risk of opening it, it was unroped and the lock forced. Among the 8½ lbs. of MSS. within, was found that wonderful dream of Joanna’s of “The Boiled Bible”* with the beautiful Communication given her on it in April, 1806; also her prophetic dream in Sept. 1803 † of a bull-dog (England) with a cat (the French) furiously scratching at the inside of his throat (symbolic of the Straits of Dover): but the dog did not die—he swallowed the cat.
This box I believe to be one of those bought from a Believer by the zealous Mrs. Lavinia E. C. Jones. A letter, dated August, 1839, is in the doctor’s possession, addressed to a Mrs. L. E. C. Jones, who had evidently declared her intention of getting hold of the Sealed Writings, and had thus drawn upon herself the sharp rebuke of J. Mellor and R. Norris, two of the then Southcottian leaders by whom the letter was signed.
* Read “Express Leaflet,” No.17.
† Napoleon was even then, although the “Peace of Amiens” was in force, silently massing his “Great Fleet” at Boulogne, for an invasion of England.
THE BRADFORD BOX.
From the “Yorkshire Post and Observer ”
On May 18th, the students of Bradford, in what was termed “A Gay Rag” produced on the steps of the Town Hall a so-called “Joanna Southcott Box,” from which they produced what they called the will and some prophecies of Our Prophetess, a Key to Heaven, and many other things equally sensational. We are glad to say that in the columns of this same paper there appeared the following month, a lengthy and consistent account of “The Authentic History of the ‘Great Box’” then just published. Again, as always, Our Father had prepared His “counter-move,” and the “Truth” came out.
The Year 1926.
In the Daily Press appeared short paragraphs expressing a hope that the required 24 Bishops will come forward next year; but it is not for us either “to invite or entreat”* the Church in this matter—enough to know that Our Lord will give us in His time, which is the one and only right time, “Our Heart’s Desire.”
The Year 1927.
EXCITEMENT AT THE OPENING OF THE FAKE† “X-RAYED” BOX AT THE
CHURCH HOUSE, WESTMINSTER, ON JULY 11TH, 1927.
From “The Daily News.” (London). 12/7/1927.
ANOTHER BLOW FOR JOANNA.
Joanna Southcott might have been cruelly disappointed last night if she had been present at the Church House, Westminster, at the opening of a box.
The presence of a horse-pistol in the box was recently revealed by X-rays. Instead of the 24 bishops stipulated in her will, only one, the Bishop of Grantham, was present, and he declared that he attended “only out of curiosity”, and that the opening of the box had “not proved very illuminating.”
In an atmosphere of humorous scepticism, the following articles, in addition to the horse-pistol, were revealed, after the seals had been solemnly cut:
Printed Diary—1715 (not Joanna’s).
Book of “prophecies”—by one of Joanna’s rivals.
Book of Translations—1794.
Two religious discourses, in MSS.
“Calendar of the French Court”—1793
Piece of paper printed—in 1814.
Numerous coins, such as 1812, George III, shilling.
Book of Prophecy—1795
Medal in case, inscribed “Augusta, Princess of Wales.”
Book—“The Surprise of Love, or An Adventure in Greenwich Park.”
The general feeling found its most accurate expression in the comment of the woman at the back of the hall, who suddenly exclaimed in a loud, clear voice: “A lot of fuss about nothing!”
* See Book 24, p. 45.
† A man in California has recently declared that he himself faked this box and its contents.
“Daily Herald ” (London). 9/7/1927.
JOANNA SOUTHCOTT’S BOX.
It may interest some of your readers to know that the box which is now in the possession of members of the National Laboratory of Psychical Research—and which they propose to open at the Church House, Westminster, next Monday—is not the box left by Joanna Southcott to be opened by the bishops.
There is evidence extant, in the form of old letters in the possession of Alice Seymour (the biographer of Joanna Southcott), that the box left by Joanna weighs 156 lbs. The one held by the Laboratory weighs only 11 lbs.
The Great Box is still in the care of custodians who regard it as a sacred trust, and it will be handed over only to the bishops or their representatives.
(Miss) Brent Forth.
“Western Morning News.” (Plymouth). 20/7/1927.
JOANNA SOUTHCOTT’S BOX STILL UNOPENED.
SIR,—It is, indeed, a great pity—that the opening of a so-called “Southcott box,” with its absurd contents, should receive any serious consideration from the public. Within the last two years we have read varied accounts of four of these “fake” boxes or “stunts:”—the Hammersmith box; the Bradford box (a students’ “Rag”); the box opened at Cambridge in another students’ “Rag” only a few weeks ago, and now another, equally ridiculous, has been opened in solemn state at Westminster.
Each in turn, has been, more or less, “boomed” as the “Great Box” of our West-country prophetess, left by her as a sacred trust to our nation for a time of “dire peril” in her history. It is, indeed, well that the British people have not only a sense of humour, but also a still stronger sense of fair-play and justice. The authentic history of this genuine box is now known from its origin in 1794, in Exeter, up to the present day.
Each custodian, since Joanna’s death in 1814, has been chosen by special ballot, elected for his integrity, and placed under a solemn vow not to give up the box of sealed writings save to the proper authorities, i.e., the 24 Bishops, in whose hands is left the decision as to the genuineness of the long-preserved MSS. (See “Book of the Trial.”)
Joanna’s box is made of “common wood,” is not ark-shaped, bears no mother-of-pearl escutcheon, and is of a peculiar construction in that it is threefold—the original, that of Joanna being in the centre. The remarkable tale about Rebecca and her son John, has its humorous side; and the sudden departure abroad of the owner of the “X-rayed box” is easily refuted by the fact that the present custodian of the “Great Box” is still in this country. I know, personally, two ladies who have actually seen the genuine box in recent years, and who can vouch for its authenticity and existence.
As to the prophecies of this West-country woman, they are neither fantastic nor legendary, but can be verified, one by one, from any good history book; those relating to our own days find their proof increasingly in the daily columns of our Press.
MARY S. ROBERTSON.
“Vancouver Daily Sun.” 18/7/27.
JOANNA SOUTHCOTT BOX JUST OPENED IN ENGLAND IS NOT REAL ARTICLE.
SIR,—I read in the “The Sun,” July 12, about Joanna Southcott’s box being opened. I would like to state here for the sake of those who do not know or have not read anything about the box, that the real Southcott box, the Great Box, as it is known, which contains the sealed writings left by Joanna Southcott, weighs 156 pounds. The box which was sent the National Laboratory of Psychical Research only weighs 11 pounds.
The reason of there being so many so-called Southcott boxes is, I think, because the believers during the life-time of Joanna Southcott treasured both her letters and Communications.
At one time an ardent believer named Lavinia C. Jones scoured the country in her effort to secure all letters and Communications left by old believers to their descendants or friends. These in 1863, were printed and published by Daniel Jones, of Bradford-on-Avon, in book form, entitled “The Still Small Voice in London.”
THE ONE AND ONLY “GREAT NATIONAL BOX.”
What then does the real “Treasure Box” contain? Many suggestions have been made, all equally futile. We are not to know until the 24 Bishops gather “in conference” around it, and their hands have reverently lifted from the “Ark” the long-sealed Prophetic Writings. As the shepherds of the People, it is through their “willing obedience” that the glad tidings must go forth to a world “without peace or content.”
What has the Spirit to say to our beloved Land? It gives both a warning and a promised blessing—“england, oh england, how you have slighted my warnings! how have you despised my invitations! How have you set at nought all my counsel! but turn unto me and i will turn unto you.” The promises to an obedient “England” are beyond compare.
This we do know, without a doubt. From Our “Great Box” will come forth at the appointed hour, the Spirit’s “healing words.” which will speed on “golden wings” straight to the longing, restless hearts of men and women the whole world over.
“Mine eyes have seen the Glory of the Coming of the Lord, His Truth is marching on.”
—(American Prophetic Battle Hymn).
There seems to exist to-day a general, but erroneous, impression that Joanna Southcott left, in a Will, implicit directions as to the opening of what the Press has sometimes termed “Her Box;” yet, not only is there no mention of it in her Will, but the simple conditions to be observed at
its opening, do not emanate from the Prophetess, but were given her by the Spirit that guided the Visitation throughout. To the Prophetess “The Box” was no more personal property than was the “Ark of shittimwood” to Moses: both alike, acting according to a Divine command, put within a covered chest, box, or ark, the “testimony which the Lord gave them.” Equally erroneous is the “Rival Box” theory, which argues, with obvious fallacy, that because there exist to-day boxes (some even nailed and corded), in which old Believers kept their treasured MSS. and other articles associated with the Visitation, therefore the “Box of Sealed Writings” is just such another—a theory proved unsound by reason of the authentic history of the carefully guarded “Ark of The New Covenant.”
It is prophesied in the Writings, that the Lord has a time fixed for the opening of the Box, which “neither men nor devils can frustrate,” when “sudden and unawares” the 24 Bishops will send for the “Box of Sealed Writings.” The pressing need of the moment will render easy the acceptance of the simple conditions decreed by the Lord, whose wisdom has ordained a short period of deliberation upon the published Southcott Works, preparatory to the investigation of the contents of “The Box:” that as a judge first hears and weighs all evidence that he may be clear in judging, so will the Bishops hear and weigh the evidence of the jury of 24 Believers before turning, with the greater light thus gained, to the “testimony or proof of the mission” within the “Sealed Writings.” The very fact that Southcott MSS. found in recently opened boxes of old Believers, have been quite “unintelligible” to an unbelieving present day public, is a remarkable proof of the necessity for some preparatory examination by the Bishops of the published Southcott Writings.
It is when the Bishops or clergy representatives and Believers thus gather around the “Ark” or “Box of Sealed Writings” that the Lord has promised to manifest His glory to all present, to prove with great power the truth of His Visitation to Joanna Southcott, for “Christ shall be known in the breaking of the Seals,” and “as the days of Pentecost so shall thy Trial be to man.” (“Book of the Trial,” p. 92).
Such will be the manifestation of the power of the Spirit at this, the “Great Trial” of the Visitation, that, “then will every mouth be stopped and every tongue be silent.” (Pascoe Collection of MSS., Vol. II, p. 168). Great are the promises to England if she then turns to “the God of her fathers,” and “knows the days of her Visitation;” if she accepts her birthright to become the “first enlightened,” the “first Happy Land;” (Book 1, p. 45), from her shall then go out to all parts of the world an army of ambassadors to carry the message of Love and Universal Brotherhood—the glad news of the dawn of Christ’s Kingdom upon this Earth.
But as all things, temporal and Spiritual, stand on conditions, so are the rich blessings promised in the Divine Southcott Writings to a “willing people,” also conditional:—
“But now I tell them what to do,
First prove the writings they are true.”
THE CENTURION AMONG THE BISHOPS.
In the second volume of that wonderful series of deeply prophetic Writings published in 1813 and 1814, known as “The Five Books of Wonders,” is a prophecy which yet awaits fulfilment—the sure promise made Joanna—“For thou wilt surely find the Centurion among the Bishops.” As the Roman Centurion soldier, deeply moved by all he had witnessed on that memorable Friday of B.C. 33, and looking up in the growing darkness at the figure of our Lord upon the Cross, was impelled to utter the words which have since stood on record,—“Truly this was the son of god;” so in the “Centurion” Bishop will be found one who, deeply stirred by his study of the prophetic Southcott Writings, will be moved to witness to his brethren that here is indeed the work of the Son of God, that to the Woman, Joanna Southcott, as she claimed, the “Still, Small Voice” of the “Spirit of Truth” had spoken.
THE ARK OF HIS REST.
The History of the arks of the Old Testament—the testimony of God the Father—closes, and fittingly so, on a clarion-note of glad prophecy. To David, King of Israel, who restored to His people the ark of the covenant—David, whose kingdom was promised to be established for ever—David, of whose royal lineage was Christ, Our Lord—was vouchsafed to behold in a Vision, the Glorious ark of His Rest, given to an obedient people to lead them in the end into the Promised Land, the Rest—the thousand years—the millennium—when Our Lord shall have established His Kingdom of Peace and Righteousness on our Earth.
The Voice of the “Sweet Singer of Israel” rose to a note of exultant triumph as he sang,—“Arise o lord, into thy rest, thou and the ark of thy strength.” (Ps. 132). Strangely prophetic is the Vision of Our “Great Box” or “ark of the new covenant” that yet awaits a people’s obedience before it may fulfil the purpose whereunto it was ordained.
Still more beautiful and prophetic is the original meaning of the words of the song as “The Seat of Thy Powerful and Glorious Presence, from whence Thou dost put forth and manifest Thy Strength in behalf of Thy People, when they desire and need it.” (Cruden).