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itself of all true knowledge of divine and human things. Of this sect
Baxter says that they were "fewer in number," and seemed "to have
attained to greater meekness and conquest of passions," than the
other sects. The chief of them was Dr. Pordage, Rector of Bradfield,
in Berks, with his family. They held "visible and sensible communion
with angels" in the Rectory, on the very walls and windows of which
there appeared miraculous pictures and symbols; and the Doctor
himself, besides alarming people with such strange phrases as "the
fiery deity of Christ dwelling in the soul and mixing itself with our
flesh," was clearly unorthodox on many particular
points.[1] - Boehme's system included a mystical physics or cosmology
as well as a metaphysics or theosophy, and some of his English
followers seem to have allied themselves with the famous Astrologer
William Lilly, whose prophetic Almanacks, under the title of
_Merlinus Anglicus_, had been appearing annually since 1644. But
indeed all sorts of men were in contact with this quack or
quack-mystic. He had been consulted by Charles I as to the probable
issue of events; he had been consulted and feed by partisans of the
other side: his Almanacks, with their hieroglyphics and political
predictions, had a boundless popularity, and were bringing him a good
income; he was the chief in his day of those fortune-telling and
spirit-auguring celebrities who hover all their lives between high
society and Bridewell. As he had adhered to the Parliamentarians and
made the stars speak for their cause, he had hitherto been pretty
safe; but the leading Presbyterian and Independent ministers, as we
have seen (ante IV, p. 392), had recently called upon Parliament to
put down his bastard science. Gataker had attacked "that grand
impostor Mr. William Lilly" in an express publication.[2] - Is it in a
spirit of mischief that Baxter names THE VANISTS, or disciples of Sir
Henry Vane the younger, as one of the recognised sects of this time?
That great Republican leader, it was known, with all his deep
practical astuteness and the perfect clearness and shrewdness of his
speeches and business-letters, carried in his head a mystic
Metaphysics of his own which he found it hard to express. It was a
something unique, including ideas from the Antinomians, the
Anabaptists, and the Seekers, he had been so much among, with
something also of the Fifth-Monarchy notion, and with the theory of
absolute Voluntaryism in Religion, but all these amalgamated with new
ingredients. Burnet tells us that, though he had taken pains to find
out Vane's meaning in his own books, he could never reach it, and
that, as many others had the same experience, it might be reasonable
to conclude that Vane had purposely kept back the key to his system.
Friends of Vane had told Burnet, however, that "he leaned to Origen's
notion of a universal salvation of all, both of devils and the
damned, and to the doctrine of pre-existence." Even when Cromwell
and Vane had been close friends, calling each other "Fountain" and
"Heron" in their private letters. Vane had been in possession of
such peculiar lights, or of others, beyond Cromwell's apprehension.
"Brother Fountain can guess at his brother's meaning," he had written
to Cromwell in Scotland August 2, 1651, with reference to some
troublesome on-goings in the Council of State during Cromwell's
absence, begging him not to believe ill-natured reports about
"Brother Heron" in connexion with them, and adding, "Be assured he
answers your heart's desire in all things, except he be esteemed even
by you in principles too high to fathom; which one day, I am
persuaded, will not be so thought by you, when, by increasing with
the increasings of God, you shall be brought to that sight and
enjoyment of God in Christ which passes knowledge." If this to
Cromwell, what to others? Three years had passed, and Vane was now in
compulsory retirement. His _Retired Man's Meditations_ had not
yet been published. Such Vanists, therefore, as there were in 1654
must have imbibed their knowledge of them from Sir Henry's
conversation or indirectly. Among these Baxter mentions Peter Sterry,
one of Cromwell's favourite preachers, and afterwards known as a
mystic on his own account. Of Sterry's preaching, already notoriously
obscure, Sir Benjamin Rudyard had said that "it was too high for this
world and too low for the other," and Baxter puns on the association
of Vane and Sterry, asking whether _Vanity_ and _Sterility_
had ever been more happily conjoined. But the sect of the VANISTS
existed perhaps mainly in Baxter's fancy.[3]

[Footnote 1: Stationers' Registers from 1644 to 1654; Baxter, 77-78;
Neal, IV. 112-113.]

[Footnote 2: Engl. Cycl. Art. _Lilly_; Stationers' Registers of
date June 10, 1653 (Gataker's Tract) and of other dates (Lilly's
Almanacks).]

[Footnote 3: Baxter, 74-76; Milton Papers by Nickolls, 78-79;
Wood's Ath. III, 578 et seq. and IV. 136-138.]

QUAKERS OR FRIENDS: - Who can think of the appearance of this sect in
English History without doing what the sect itself would forbid, and
reverently raising the hat? And yet in 1654 this was the very sect of
sects. It was about the Quakers that there had begun to be the most
violent excitement among the guardians of social order throughout the
British Islands. - It was then six or seven years since they had first
been heard of in any distinct way, and four since they had received
the name QUAKERS. A Derbyshire Justice of the Peace, it is said,
first invented that name for them, because they seemed to be fond of
the text Jer. v. 22, and had offended him by addressing it to himself
and a brother magistrate: "Fear ye not me? saith the Lord; will ye
not tremble at my presence?" But Robert Barclay's account of the
origin of the name in his _Apology for the Quakers_ (1675) is
probably more correct, though not inconsistent. He says it arose from
the fact that, in the early meetings of "The Children of the Light,"
as they first called themselves, violent physical agitations were not
unfrequent, and conversions were often signalized by that
accompaniment. There was often an "inward travail" in some one
present; "and from this inward travail, while the darkness seeks to
obscure the light, and the light breaks through the darkness, which
it will always do if the soul gives not its strength to the
darkness, there will be such a painful travail found in the soul that
will even work upon the outward man, so that often-times, through the
working thereof, the body will be greatly shaken, and many groans and
sighs and tears, even as the pangs of a woman in travail, will lay
hold of it: yea, and this not only as to one, but ... sometimes the
power of God will break forth into a whole meeting, and there will be
such an inward travail, while each is seeking to overcome the evil in
themselves, that by the strong contrary workings of these opposite
powers, like the going of two contrary tides, every individual will
be strongly exercised as in a day of battle, and thereby trembling
and a motion of body will be upon most, if not upon all, which, as
the power of Truth prevails, will from pangs and groans end with a
sweet sound of thanksgiving and praise. And from this the name of
_Quakers_, i.e. _Tremblers_, was first reproachfully cast
upon us; which though it be none of our choosing, yet in this respect
we are not ashamed of it, but have rather reason to rejoice
therefore, even that we are sensible of this power that hath
oftentimes laid hold of our adversaries, and made them yield to us,
and join with us, and confess to the Truth, before they had any
distinct and discursive knowledge of our doctrines." - The Quakers,
then, according to this eminent Apologist for them, _had_, from
the first, definite doctrines, which might be distinctly and
discursively known. What were they? They hardly amounted to any
express revolution of existing Theology. In no essential respect did
any of their recognised representatives impugn any of the doctrines
of Christianity as professed by other fervid Evangelical sects. The
Trinity, the Divinity of Christ, the natural sinfulness of men,
propitiation by Christ alone, sanctification by the Holy Spirit, the
inspiration and authority of the Scriptures - in these, and in other
cardinal tenets, they were at one with the main body of their
contemporary Christians. Though it was customary for a time to
confound them with the Ranters, they themselves repudiated the
connexion, and opposed the Ranters and their libertinism wherever
they met them. Wherein then lay the distinctive peculiarity of the
Quakers? It has been usual to say that it consisted in their doctrine
of the universality of the gift of the Spirit, and of the constant
inner light, and motion, and teaching of the Spirit in the soul of
each individual believer. This is not sufficient. That doctrine they
shared substantially with various other sects, - certainly with the
Boehmenists and other Continental Mystics, not to speak of the
English Antinomians and Seekers. Nay, in their first great practical
application of the doctrine they had been largely anticipated. If the
inner motion or manifestation of the Spirit in each mind, in
interpretation of the Bible or over and above the Bible, is the sole
true teaching of the Gospel, and if the manifestation cometh as the
Spirit listeth, and cannot be commanded, a regular Ministry of the
Word by a so-called Clergy is an absurdity, and a hired Ministry an
abomination! So said the Quakers. In reaching this conclusion,
however, they had only added themselves to masses of people, known as
Brownists, Seekers, and Anabaptists, who had already, by the same
route or by others, advanced to the standing-ground of absolute
Voluntaryism. What did distinguish the early Quakers seems to have
been, in the first place, the thorough form of their apprehension of
that doctrine of the Inner Light, or Immediate Revelation of the
Spirit, which they held in common with other sects, and, in the
second place, their courage and tenacity in carrying out the
practical inferences from that doctrine in every sentence of their
own speech and every hour of their own conduct. As to the form in
which they held the doctrine itself Barclay will be again our best
authority. "The testimony of the Spirit," he says, "is that alone by
which the true knowledge of God hath been, is, and can only be,
revealed; who, as by the moving of his own Spirit he converted the
Chaos of this world into that wonderful Order wherein it was in the
beginning, and created Man a living Soul to rule and govern it, so by
the same Spirit he hath manifested himself all along unto the sons of
men, both Patriarchs, Prophets, and Apostles: which revelations of
God by the Spirit, whether by outward voices and appearances, dreams,
or inward objective manifestations in the heart, were of old the
formal object of their faith and remain yet so to be, - since the
object of the Saints' faith is the same in all ages, though set forth
under divers administrations." This Inner Light of the Spirit,
seizing men and women at all times and places, and illuminating them
in the knowledge of God, was, Barclay elsewhere explains, something
altogether supernatural, something totally distinct from natural
Reason. "That Man, as he is a rational creature, hath Reason as a
natural faculty of his soul, we deny not; for this is a property
natural and essential to him, by which he can know and learn many
arts and sciences, beyond what any other animal can do by the mere
animal principle. Neither do we deny that by this rational principle
Man may apprehend in his brain, and in the notion, a knowledge of God
and spiritual things; yet, that not being the right organ, ... it
cannot profit him towards salvation, but rather hindereth." And what
of the use and value of the Scriptures? "From these revelations of
the Spirit of God to the saints have proceeded the Scriptures of
Truth, which contain (1) A faithful historical account of the actings
of God's people in divers ages, with many singular and remarkable
providences attending them; (2) A prophetical account of several
things, whereof some are already past and some yet to come; (3) A
full and ample account of all the chief principles of the doctrine of
Christ ... Nevertheless, because they are only a declaration of the
fountain, and not the fountain itself, therefore they are not to be
esteemed the principal ground of all Truth and Knowledge, nor yet the
adequate primary rule of faith and manners. Nevertheless, as that
which giveth a true and faithful testimony of the first foundation,
they are and may be esteemed a secondary rule, subordinate to the
Spirit, from which they have all their excellency and certainty." So
much for the _form_ of the central principle of Early Quakerism,
so far as it can be expressed logically. But it was in the resolute
application of the principle in practice that the Early Quakers made
themselves conspicuous. They were not Speculative Voluntaries,
waiting for the abolition of the National Church, and paying tithes
meanwhile. They were Separatists who would at once and in every way
assert their Separatism. They would pay no tithes; they called every
church "a steeple-house"; and they regarded every parson as the hired
performer in one of the steeple-houses. Then, in their own meetings
for mutual edification and worship, all their customs were in
accordance with their main principle. They had no fixed articles of
congregational creed, no prescribed forms of prayer, no ordinance of
baptism or of sacramental communion, no religious ceremony in
sanction of marriage, and no paid or appointed preachers. The
ministry was to be as the spirit moved; all equally might speak or be
silent, poor as well as rich, unlearned as well as learned, women as
well as men; if special teachers did spring up amongst them, it
should not be professionally, or to earn a salary. Yet, with all this
liberty among themselves, what unanimity in the moral purport of
their teachings! Their restless dissatisfaction with the Established
Church and with all known varieties of Dissent, their passion for a
full reception of Christ at the fountain-head, their searchings of
the Scriptures, their private raptures and meditations, their prayers
and consultations in public, had resulted in a simple re-issue of the
Christianity of the Sermon on the Mount. Quakerism, in its kernel,
was but the revived Christian morality of meekness, piety,
benevolence, purity, truthfulness, peacefulness, and passivity. There
were to be no oaths: Yea or Nay was to be enough. There were to be no
ceremonies of honour or courtesy-titles among men: the hat was to be
taken off to no one, and all were to be addressed in the singular, as
_Thou_ and _Thee_. War and physical violence were unlawful,
and therefore all fighting and the trade of a soldier. Injuries to
oneself were to be borne with patience, but there was to be the most
active energy in relieving the sufferings of others, and in seeking
out suffering where it lurked. The sick and those in prison were to
be visited, the insane and the outcast; and the wrongs and cruelties
of law, whether in death-sentences for mere offences against
property, or in brutal methods of prison-treatment, were to be
exposed and condemned. For the rest, the Friends were to walk
industriously and domestically through the world, honest in their
dealings, wearing a plain Puritan garb, and avoiding all vanities and
gaieties. - Had it been possible for such a sect to come into
existence by mere natural growth, or the unconcerted association of
like-minded persons in all parts of the country at once, even then,
one can see, there would have been irritation between it and the rest
of the community. The refusal to pay tithes, the refusal of oaths in
Courts of Law or anywhere else, the objection to war and to the trade
of a soldier, the _Theeing_ and _Thouing_ of all
indiscriminately, the keeping of the hat on in any presence, would
have occasioned constant feud between any little nucleus of Quakers
and the society round about it. But the sect had not formed itself by
any such quiet process of simultaneous grouping among people who had
somehow imbibed its tenets. It had come into being, and in fact had
shaped its tenets and become aware of them, through a previous
fervour of itinerant Propagandism such as had hardly been known since
the first Apostles and Christian missionaries had walked among the
heathen. The first Quaker, the man in whose dreamings by himself,
aided by scanty readings, the principles of the sect had been
evolved, and in whose conduct by himself for a year or two the sect
had practically originated, was the good, blunt, obstinate,
opaque-brained, ecstatic, Leicestershire shoemaker, George Fox, the
Boehme of England. From the year 1646, when he was two and twenty
years of age, the life of Fox had been an incessant tramp through the
towns and villages of the Midlands and the North, with preachings in
barns, in inns, in market-places, outside courts of justice, and
often inside the steeple-houses themselves, by way of interruption of
the regular ministers, or correction of their doctrine after the
hours of regular service. Extraordinary excitements had attended him
everywhere, paroxysms of delight in him with tears and tremblings,
outbreaks of rage against him with hootings and stonings. Again and
again he had been brought before justices and magistrates, to whose
presence indeed he naturally tended of his own accord for the purpose
of lecturing them on their duties, and to whom he was always writing
Biblical letters. He had been beaten and put in the stocks; he had
been in Derby jail and in several other prisons, charged with riot or
blasphemy; and in these prisons he had found work to his mind and had
sometimes converted his jailors. And so, by the year 1654, "the man
with the leather breeches," as he was called, had become a celebrity
throughout England, with scattered converts and adherents everywhere,
but voted a pest and terror by the public authorities, the regular
steeple-house clergy whether Presbyterian or Independent, and the
appointed preachers of all the old sects. By this time, however, he
was by no means the sole preacher of Quakerism. Every now and then
from among his converts there had started up one fitted to assist him
in the work of itinerant propagandism, and the number of such had
increased in 1654 to about sixty in all. Richard Farnsworth, James
Nayler, William Dewsbury, Thomas Aldam, John Audland, Francis
Howgill, Edward Burrough, Thomas Taylor, John Camm, Richard
Hubberthorn, Miles Halhead, James Parnel, Thomas Briggs, Robert
Widders, George Whitehead, Thomas Holmes, James Lancaster, Alexander
Parker, William Caton, and John Stubbs, of the one sex, with
Elizabeth Hooton, Anna Downer, Elizabeth Heavens, Elizabeth Fletcher,
Barbara Blaugden, Catherine Evans, and Sarah Cheevers, of the other
sex, were among the chief of these early Quaker preachers after Fox.
They had carried the doctrines into every part of England, and also
into Scotland and Ireland; some of them had even been moved to go to
the Continent. Wherever they went there was the same disturbance
round them as round Fox himself, and they had the same hard
treatment - imprisonment, duckings, whippings. It is necessary that
the reader should remember that in 1654 Quakerism was still in this
first stage of its diffusion by a vehement propagandism carried on by
some sixty itinerant preachers at war with established habits and
customs, and had not settled down into mere individual Quietism, with
associations of those who had been converted to its principles, and
could be content with their own local meetings. In the chief centres,
indeed, there were now fixed meetings for the resident Quakers, the
main meeting place for London being the Bull and Mouth in St.
Martin's-le-Grand; but Fox and most of his coadjutors were still
wandering about the country. - There was already an extensive
literature of Quakerism, consisting of printed letters and tracts by
Fox himself, Farnsworth, Nayler, Dewsbury, Howgill, and others, and
of invectives against the Quakers and their principles by
Presbyterians and Independents; and some of the letters of the
Quakers had been directly addressed to Cromwell. There had also, some
time in 1654, been one interview between the Lord Protector and Fox.
Colonel Hacker, having arrested Fox in Leicestershire, had sent him
up to London. Brought to Whitehall, one morning early, when the Lord
Protector was dressing, he had said, on entering, "Peace be on this
House!" and had then discoursed to the Protector at some length, the
Protector kindly listening, occasionally putting a question, and
several times acknowledging a remark of George's by saying it was
"very good," and "the truth." At parting, the Protector had taken
hold of his hand, and, with tears in his eyes, said "Come again to my
house! If thou and I were but an hour of the day together, we should
be nearer one to another. I wish no more harm to thee than I do to my
own soul." Outside, the captain on guard, informing George that he
was free, had wanted him, by the Protector's orders, to stay and dine
with the household; but George had stoutly declined.[1]

[Footnote 1: Sewel's _History of the People called Quakers_ (ed.
1834), I, I - 136; Rules and Discipline of the Society of Friends
(1834), _Introduction_; Baxter, 77; Neal, IV. 31-41; Pamphlets
in Thomason Collection; Robert Barclay's _Apology for the
Quakers_ (ed. 1765), pp. 4, 48, 118, 309-310. This last is a
really able and impressive book - far the most reasoned exposition
even yet, I believe, of the principles of early Quakerism. Though
not written till twenty years after our present date, it was the
first accurate and articulate expression, I believe, of the
principles that had really, though rather confusedly, pervaded the
Quaker teachings and writings at that date. - There are many particles
of information about the early Quakers, and about other contemporary
English sects, in _The Inner Life of the Religious Societies of the
Commonwealth_, published in 1878, the posthumous work of a second
Robert Barclay, two hundred years after the first. But the book,
though laborious, is very chaotic, and shows hardly any knowledge of
the time of which it mainly treats.]

Such were the more recent sects and heresies for which, as well as
for those older and more familiar, the First Parliament of the
Protectorate had been, with the help of Dr. Owen and his
brother-divines, preparing a strait-jacket. Of that Parliament,
however, and of all its belongings, the Commonwealth was to be rid
sooner than had been expected.

It had been the astute policy of the Parliament to concentrate all
their attention upon the new Constitution for the Protectorate, and
to neglect and postpone other business until the Bill of the
Constitution had been pushed through and presented to Cromwell for
his assent. In particular they had postponed, as much as possible,
all supplies for Army and Navy and for carrying on the Government. By
this, as they thought, they retained Cromwell in their grasp. By the
instrument under which they had been called, he could not dissolve
them till they had sat five months, - which, by ordinary counting from
Sept. 3, 1654, made them safe till Feb. 3, 1654-5. But, if they could
contrive that it should be Cromwell's interest not to dissolve them
then, there was no reason why they should not sit on a good while
longer, perhaps even till near Oct. 1656, the time they had
themselves fixed for the meeting of the next Parliament. To postpone
supplies, therefore, till after the general Bill of the Constitution
in all its sixty Articles should have received Cromwell's assent, to
wrap up present supplies and the hope of future supplies as much as
possible in the Bill itself, was the plan of the Anti-Oliverians. The
Bill, it will be remembered, had passed the second reading on Dec.
23, had then gone into Committee for amendments, and had come back to
the House with these amendments. On the 10th of January, 1654-5, when
the Bill was almost ready to be engrossed, it was moved by the
Oliverians that there should be a conference about it with the
Protector; but the motion was lost by 107 votes to 95. Among various
subsequent divisions was one on the 16th on the question whether the
Bill should become Law even if the Lord Protector should refuse his
assent, and the Anti-Oliverians negatived the putting of the question
by eighty-six votes to fifty-five. The next day, after another



Online LibraryDavid MassonThe Life of John Milton, Volume 5 (of 7), 1654-1660 → online text (page 4 of 69)