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William Evans.

The Friends' library : comprising journals, doctrinal treatises, and other writings of members of the religious Society of Friends (Volume 1) online

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which I destroyed, I make myself a transgres-
sor." — But he stopped not here — conscious of
the loss he had sustained by his apostacy —
restless and dissatisfied in himself, he became
also exceedingly envious of those he had left ;
and going over to America, obtained an office
in which he was a most rigorous exacter of
oaths, and persecutor of Friends. He threw
off the appearance of a Friend, dressed him-
self in fashionable apparel with a sword by his
side, and fell into open sensualities, according
to that saying, " Evil men and seducers wax
worse and worse, deceiving and being deceived."



During the prevalence of this spirit, George
Fox laboured both by pi'eaching and writing,
to arrest its progress and to rescue those who
had been entangled. He published the follow-
ing short warning to all who had gone into
the spirit of separation, viz.

" Whosoever is tainted with this spirit of
John Perrot, it will perish. Mark theirs and
his end, that are turned into those outward
things and janglings about them, and that
which is not savoury ; all which is for judo -
ment, and is to be swept and cleansed out of
the camp of God. This is to that spirit that
is gone into jangling about that which is below,
(the rotten principle of the old Ranters) gone
from the invisible power of God, in which is
the everlasting fellowship. So many are be-
come like the corn on the house-top, and like
the untimely figs, who now clamour and speak
against them that are in the power of God.
Oh ! consider ! the light and power of God
goes over you all, and leaves you in the fret-
ting nature, out of the unity which is in the
everlasting light, life, and power of God.
Consider this before the day be gone from you,
and take heed that your memorial be not rooted
out from among the righteous. G. F."

Among other trials which Friends had about
this time, the legality of their marriages was
called in question, by an action brought in one
of the courts of England, to dispossess the
child of a deceased Friend of his inheritance
in a copy-hold estate belonging to his father,
who had been married according to the order
of Friends. In opening the case, the plaintiff's
counsel took the ground that the marriage was
not solemnized according to the laws of the
realm, and therefore not valid, using moreover
many unhandsome expressions respecting the
Society. Judge Archer in summing up the
case observed, "there was a marriage in Para-
dise when Adam took Eve and Eve took Adam ;
and that it was therefore the consent of the
parties which made a marriage. As for the
Quakers, he added, he did not know their opin-
ions, but he did not believe what had been said
of them, but that they married as Christians;
and therefore he considered the marriage lawful
and the child lawful heir." To satisfy the jury
more fully he adduced a case in point: Avhere
a marriage, performed by the simple declara-
tion of the parties before witnesses that they
took each other to be husband and wife, had
been questioned, but that its validity and law-
fulness were affirmed by the bishops as well as
judges. This subject is mentioned by George
Fox as one of great interest to the Society, and
the decision obtained, so fully settled the ques-
tion that it has never since been contested.



56



MEMOIR OF GEORGE FOX.



The oaths of allegiance and supremacy
being now pressed upon Friends, and many
imprisoned and some premunii'ed because they
could not conscientiously take them, George
Fox gave forth this short essay on the lawful-
ness of swearing.

" The world saith, ' Kiss the book ;' but the
book saith, ' Kiss the Son, lest he be angry;'
and the Son saith, ' Swear not at all ,•' but
keep to yea and nay in all your communica-
tion; for whatsoever is more than this cometh
of evil. Again, the world saith, ' Lay your
hand on the book ;' but the book saith, ' Han-
dle the word ;' and the word saith, ' Handle
not the traditions,' nor the inventions, nor the
rudiments of the world. And God saith, ' This
is my beloved Son, hear him ;' who is the life,
the truth, the light, and the way to God.

G. F."

It has already been stated, that during the
year 1650, George Fox was prisoner six
months in the house of correction at Derby,
where he was treated with great severity
by the keeper. This man was afterward
brought to a sense of his wickedness, and was
in great distress on account of it. As he pa-
tiently submitted to the operation of the Spirit
of judgment in his own mind, he experienced
forgiveness, became convinced of the princi-
ples of Friends and a steady member of the
Society. About this time he wrote the follow-
ing letter to George Fox.

" Dear Friend,

" Having such a convenient messenger,
I could do no less than give thee an account of
my present condition ; remembering, that to
the first awakening of me to a sense of life,
and of the inward principle, God was pleased
to make use of thee as an instrument. So that
sometimes I am taken with admiration that it
should come by such a means as it did ; that
is to say, that Providence should order thee to
be my prisoner, to give me my first real sight
of the truth. It makes me many times to
think of the gaoler's conversion by the apos-
tles. Notwithstanding my outward losses
are, since that time, such that I am become
nothing in the world, yet I hope I shall find
that all these light afflictions, which are but
for a moment, will work for me a far more
exceeding and eternal weight of glory. They
have taken all from me ; and now, instead of
keeping a prison, I am rather waiting when I
shall become a prisoner myself. Pray for me,
that my faith fail not, and that I may hold out
to the death, that I may receive a crown of
life. I earnestly desire to hear from thee, and
of thy condition, which would very much re-
joice me. Not having else at present, but my



kind love unto thee and all Christian friends
with thee, in haste, I rest thine in Christ Jesus,
Thomas Sharman."
" Derby, the 22d of the
4th month, 1662."

From London George Fox travelled through
the country, accompanied by John Stubbs and
Alexander Parker, visiting Friends and hold-
ing meetings, until they reached Bristol. Here
they understood that the officers had been very
rude in breaking up the meetings, and on first-
day, while Alexander Parker was preaching
in the meeting at Broadmead, they came and
took him away. After he was gone George
stood up and spoke to the people for a consid-
erable time in a powerful manner ; all were
quiet and the assembly broke up peaceably.
Information having got abroad that he was in
town, and likely to attend the meetings, the
magistrates threatened to take him, and raised
the trained band for the purpose. Having as-
certained this to be the case, his friends en-
deavoured to dissuade him from going to
meeting on the following first-day. George
desired them to go to the meeting not telling
them what he intended doing : but after they
were gone, he went also, taking a path which
led across the fields. On his way he met
several persons who dissuaded him from going,
from an apprehension that he would be im-
prisoned. He was not however to be deterred
by the fear of suffering, and proceeded to the
meeting, where he was soon engaged in de-
claring the truth to the people, and a heavenly
precious meeting they had. After clearing
his mind in testimony, he kneeled down in
prayer to God; and at the conclusion of the
meeting observed to his friends " they might
see there was a God in Israel that could de-
liver." The assembly was very large, and
dispersed peaceably. The officers and soldiers
having gone to break up another meeting, it
occupied so much of their time, that this con-
cluded before they arrived, and thus they
missed their object.

After he had left the- town, and gone to a
neighbouring meeting, the soldiers surrounded
the meeting house at Bristol, saying they
should be sure to have him now; but on look-
ing over the company and finding he was not
among them, they were greatly incensed and
kept Friends prisoners in the house most of
the day, asking them where George Fox was
gone and how they might take him.

Passing through Wiltshire and Berkshire,
he came again to London, and after a short
stay went northward into Leicestershire, hav-
ing many large meetings on the way, in which
there was great opportunity for spreading the
knowledge of the truth. At Swanington he



MEMOIR OF GEORGE FOX.



57



was arrested by lord Beaumont with a compa-
ny of soldiers ; who rushed into the house
with swoi'ds and pistols in their hands. Find-
ing nothing on which to ground a commitment,
they tendered him the oaths of allegiance and
supremacy, which he declined taking, having
a conscientious objection to all swearing; and
after sometime, a mittimus was made out for
him and the Friends who were with him,
charging him with this refusal, and stating
that " they were to have had a meeting.''''
It was difficult to procure any one to convey
them to prison ; most persons being engaged
in collecting their harvests, and none liking
to be concerned in conveying their peaceable
and respectable neighbours to jail. At length
a man was hired for the purpose, who though
paid for it, went with great reluctance. The
Friends, five in number, were placed in his
cart, and as they rode along some carried
their Bibles in their hands and preached Christ
to the people, telling them that they were
prisoners going to suffer bonds for his name
and truth's sake ; and a woman Friend carried
her spinning wheel in her lap to afford her
employment in prison. The people in the
towns through which they passed were greatly
affected, and on their arrival at Leicester the
inn-keeper was anxious to procure their liber-
ty, offering them the privilege of staying at
his house rather than they should go to the
jail. But though they acknowledged his kind-
ness, they preferred sharing the lot of their
brethren, many of whom were already in
prison there.

The man who conducted them thither deliv-
ered the mittimus to the jailer. They requested
him to furnish them with some straw, but he
replied "you do not look like men that would
lie on straw." Afler some friendly conversa-
tion with the jailer's wife, they succeeded in
obtaining a room, and the liberation of some
Friends from the dungeon, for the purpose of
participating in the accommodation which they
procured. Before George Fox and his com-
panions came into the prison, such was the
roughness of the jailer, that when Friends
met together on first-day, if any one prayed,
he would come with his mastiff dog at his
heels and pull them to the ground by the hair,
and strike them with his staff; the dog how-
ever, of a different temper from his master,
would lay hold of the staff and take it out of
his hand. George, nothing daunted by his
ferocious disposition, gave notice to the felons
and debtors that there would be a meeting in
the yard on first-day, and any one wishing to
hear the word of the Lord declared might
come thither. The prisoners assembled ac-
cordingly and held a comfortable meeting
which was kept up during the stay of Friends,
Vol. I.— No. 2.



and attended by others from the town and
country, and some " received the Lord's truth
there, who stood faithful witnesses for it."

When the sessions came they were brought
before the justices, who tendered the oaths to
them again, and because they stedfastly de-
clined taking them, in obedience to the positive
commands of Christ and his apostles, they
were remanded to prison. As they went
thither they preached the Gospel, the streets
being full of people, and could rejoice that they
were esteemed worthy to suffer for the testi-
mony of Jesus. Soon after they were settled
in the prison an order came from the court
that they should all be discharged. Thus
through the kind providence of the Most High,
way was made for their escape wh§n they least
expected it. George Fox went to see lord
Beaumont, and showed him a letter from lord
Hastings to the justices of the sessions, requir-
ing them to set him at liberty ; but though
George had it in his pocket at the time of the
trial he did not show it to them. After reading
it he seemed troubled in his mind, yet threat-
ened that if they held any more meetings at
Swanington he would send them to prison
again. George Fox was not to be deterred
by threats from the performance of his re-
ligious duty, and finding his mind engaged
thereto, he held a meeting at Swanington
without molestation. From thence he travel-
led to Twy Ci'oss and through Warwick,
Northampton and Bedfordshires to London;
and after tarrying there a short time he went
into Norfolk and Cambridgeshire. Here he
I'eceived intelligence of the decease of Edward
Burrough who, though but a young man, being
only about twenty eight years of age when he
died, had by his faithfulness to the manifesta-
tions of the spirit of truth, grown up to the
stature of a strong inan in Christ, and become
eminently useful in the Society, as a minis-
ter of the Gospel. Being sensible how great
a grief and loss his removal would be to
Friends, George wrote a short epistle to them
in order to stay and comfoi't their minds.

Passincr into Huntingdonshire he came to
Lynn where he had a favoured meetmg, and
as he was going out of the inn-yard where he
had lodged, the officers came to search the
house for him; "So, by the good hand of the
Lord, says he, I escaped their cruel hands.
After this we went through the counties visit-
inor Friends in their meetings — the Lord's
power carried us over the persecutmg spu'its
and through many dangers ; his truth spread
and grew and Friends were established therein :
praises and glory to his name forever."

In 1662, ti'avelling in Kent, with Thomas
Briggs, he had a large meeting at Tenterdon,
at the close of which they walked into the
8



58



MEMOIR OF GEORGE FOX.



yard while their horses were getting ready,
and saw a captain and large company of sol-
diers coming, with lighted matches and mus-
kets. They soon came up and told them they
must go before the captain. When brought
before him, he asked which was George Fox,
and with his usual intrepidity and frankness,
George answered " I am the man." The
captain appeared somewhat struck with his
readiness, and stepping to him observed, " I
will secure you among the soldiers." They
seemed to look on George Fox as a person
possessing great power and influence, and took
no small pains, though very unnecessarily, to
guard him. The great parade of muskets and
lights excited George's curiosity, and he asked
the persons who conducted him, what it meant,
desiring them to be civil to their peaceable
neighbours. They gave him little satisfaction
but conveyed him to an inn where he under-
went an examination of some length. He
answered them with so much prudence, that
none of their accusations would stand. He
showed that Friends were a peaceable people;
that their meetings were for the worship of the
Almighty, and that the Society never meddled
with any of the affairs of government. He
then spoke to them respecting their own states,
exhorting them to live in the fear of God, to
walk in his wisdom, and be tender of their
pious neighbours. His discourse had so much
effect that they set him and all the other
Friends at liberty. George parted from them
in a friendly manner, acknowledging that their
civility was noble.

At Pulner, in Hampshire, he attended a
Monthly meeting held for the neighbourhood.
Previous to the hour of its collecting, the sol-
diers came to break up the meeting and im-
prison Friends, but they came so early that
but few were there. " After they were gone,
says George Fox, Friends began to come in
apace, and a large and glorious meeting we
had, for the everlasting Seed of God was set
over all, and the people settled in the new
covenant of life, upon the foundation, Christ
Jesus." Toward the close of the meeting,
while George was speaking to the people, a
man in gay apparel came up and looked in at
the window ; and presently went away to
Ringwood and informed the magistrates that
the soldiers had taken up two or three men at
Pulner, and left George Fox there preaching
to as many hundreds. The magistrates forth-
with despatched the officers and soldiers again,
but the man having a mile and a half to car-
ry the information, and the soldiers as much
to walk back, the meeting was over and
Friends dispersed before they arrived. Thus
they were again mercifully delivered from their
persecutors.



After a meeting at Tiverton in Devonshire,
he went to Collumpton and Wellington, and
had a large meeting at a butcher's house, where
the Gospel was freely preached. Persecution
had been very hot in that county some time
before, and the meetings of Friends often in-
terrupted but now they were quiet.

" Friends told us," says he, " how they had
broken up their meetings by warrants from
the justices, and how by their warrants they
were required to carry Friends before the jus-
tices. The Friends bid them, carry them then.
The officers told them, they must go; but they
said, nay, that was not according to their war-
rants, which required them to carry them.
Then they were forced to hire carts, wagons,
and horses, and to lift them into their wagons
and carts to carry them before a justice.
When they came to a justice's house, some-
times he happened to b6 from home, or if he
was a moderate man he would get out of the
way, and then they were obliged to carry
them before another; so that they were many
days carting and carrying Friends up and
down from place to place. And when after-
wards the officers came to lay their charges
for this upon the town, the town's people
would not pay it, but made them bear it them-
selves, which broke the neck of the persecu-
tion there for that time. The like was done
in several other places, till the officers had
shamed and tired themselves, and then were
glad to give over.

" At one place they warned Friends to come
to the steeple-house. Friends met to consider
of it, and finding freedom to go, they met to-
gether there. They sat down to wait upon
the Lord in his power and Spirit, and minded
the Lord Jesus Christ, their Teacher and Sa-
viour ; but did not mind the priest. When
the officers saw that, they came to them to put
them out of the steeple-house again ; but the
Friends told them, it was not time for them to
break up their meeting yet. Awhile after,
when the priest had done, they came to the
Friends again, and would have had them go
home to dinner ; but the Friends told them,
they did not choose to go to dinner, they were
feeding upon the bread of life. So there they
sat, waiting upon the Lord, and enjoying his
power and presence, till they found freedom
in themselves to depart. Thus the priest's
people were offended, first because they could
not get them to the steeple-house, and when
there, they were offended because they could
not get them out again."

During most of the year 1663, he contin-
ued travelling through England, and went
into Wales, where he " had several precious
meetings : the Lord's name and standard was
set up, many were gathered to it and settled



MEMOIR OF GEORGE FOX.



59



under the teaching of Christ Jesus, their Sa-
viour, who bought them." Coming into the
county of Cumberland, whei'e persecution was
very hot at that time, Friends asked him if he
had come there to go to prison. So eager
were magistrates to stir up the people against
Friends, that some offered five shillings and
some a noble* a day to any that would appre-
hend speakers among the Quakers, but it
being now the time of the quarter sessions,
most of those mercenary persecutors had gone
thither to get their wages, and Friends held
their meetings in quietness.

There was quite an anxiety among the jus-
tices to take George Fox prisoner, and it is
truly remarkable, and a proof of the preserv-
ing power of an overruling Providence, that
although frequently very near them and appa-
rently exposed to the liability of being arrested,
yet he escaped out of their hands. In the
open sessions at Kendal in Westmoreland,
justice Flemming offered a reward of five
pounds to any one that should take him. On
the way to a Friend's house, George met a
man coming from the court, to whom this re-
ward had been tendered. As he passed he
remarked to his company, " that is George
Fox," but did not attempt to molest him ; " for,"
says he, " the Lord preserved me over them
all."

Few persons possessed a more undaunted
courage and firmness than did George Fox.
No danger seemed to alarm or disconcert him,
no perils to deter him from the performance of
duty. He was ever ready to bear his full por-
tion of suffering for the religion he espoused,
and by example as well as precept to encour-
age his brethren in the faithful maintainance of
their principles. Hearing that Colonel Kirby
had sent a lieutenant to the house of Margaret
Fell, in Swarthmore, to search for him, he
started on the following morning for Kirby
Hall, where the colonel resided. On being
introduced to him, he observed, that " under-
standing he was desirous of seeing him, he
had come to visit him to know what he had to
say, or whether he had anything against him.
Colonel Kirby seemed taken by surprise, and
said, before all the company, he had nothing
against him. After much friendly conversa-
tion had passed, they shook hands and parted.

Soon after this, Kirby went to London, and
the other justices held a private meeting and
granted a warrant to apprehend George Fox.
Information was given to him over night, both
of the meeting and the warrant, and he had
ample opportunity to avoid it ; but he chose
rather to stay and meet the storm — hoping
he should thus shield his friends from its



* A ffold coin of the value of $ 1 48 cts.



force. On the following morning, an olhcer
armed with sword and pistols came to appre-
hend him, and carried him before the justices ;
here he was examined on various points.
They then tendered the oath to him, and on
his refusal to swear, required him to appear at
the next sessions. The time appointed coming
on, George Fox repaired to Lancaster and ap-
peared before the judges according to his en-
gagement. The concourse was large, and the
court-house very full, but he made his way to
the bar, and there stood with his hat on. Si-
lence being ordered, he addressed the compa-
ny twice, " Peace be among you." The chair-
man asked him if he knew where he was.
" Yes, I do," he replied ; " but it may be my
hat offends you. That is a low honour — it is
not the honour that I give to magistrates — for
the true honour is from above. I hope it is
not the hat that you look upon to be the true
honour." After some further conversation,
they bade one of the officers to take his hat
off, and then proceeded to examine him re-
specting a pretended plot against the govern-
ment, of which he showed himself entirely
clear. Not being able to find any other charge
against him, they tendered him the oaths of
allegiance and supremacy, and for his refusal
to swear, committed him to prison. He bid
the judges and people take notice that " he
suffered for the doctrine of Christ and for obe-
dience to his command." Several others were
also committed, some for refusing the oaths,
and some for attending their religious meet-
ings, so that the jails were full. Many of
the prisoners were poor men, whose families
were dependent on their daily labour, and this
being now taken from them, their wives went
to the justices who committed them, and told
them if they persisted in keeping their hus-
bands in prison for the truth of Christ and the
testimony of a good conscience, they must
bring their children to them to be maintained.
Their innocence and the righteousness of their
cause, gave them great boldness, and they
feared not to plead with and warn their perse-
cutors against their cruelty and hardness of
heart.

On the 14th of the month called March,
George Fox was brought to the assizes, be-
fore Judge Twisden, when the following con-
versation took place : —

G. F. — Peace be amongst you all.

Judge. — What ! do you come into court
with your hat on !

G. F. — The hat is not the honour which
comes from God.

Judge. — Will you take the oath of alle-
giance ?

G. F. — I never took an oath in my life, nor
any covenant nor engagement.



60



MEMOIR OF GEORGE FOX.



Judge. — Well — will you swear or no ?



Online LibraryWilliam EvansThe Friends' library : comprising journals, doctrinal treatises, and other writings of members of the religious Society of Friends (Volume 1) → online text (page 13 of 105)