Copyright
William Evans.

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

. (page 15 of 105)
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 15 of 105)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


call sinners to repentance?' 'Yes,' said he.
' Then,' said I, ' thou hast stopped thy own
mouth.' So I proved, that the grace of God
had appeared unto all men, though some turned
from it into wantonness, and walked despite-
fuUy against it ; and that Christ had enlight-
ened all men, though some hated the light.
Several of the people confessed it was true ;
but he went away in a great rage, and came
no more to me.

" There came another time the widow of
lord Fairfax, and with her a great company;
one of whom was a priest. I was moved to
declare the truth to them, and the priest asked
me, 'Why we said Thou and Thee to people?
for he counted us but fools and idiots for
speaking so.' I asked him, ' Whether those
that translated the Scriptures, and made the
grammar and accidence, were fools and idiots,
seeing they translated the Scriptures so, and
made the grannmar so. Thou to one, and You
to more than one, and left it so to us ? If they
were fools and idiots, why had not he and
such as he, who looked upon themselves as
wise men, and could not bear Thou and Thee
to a singular, altered the grammar, accidence,
and Bible, and put the plural instead of the
singular? But if they were wise men that so
translated the Bible, and made the grammar
and accidence, I wished him to consider,
whether they were not fools and idiots them-
selves, that did not speak as their grammars
and Bibles taught them ; but were oflx^nded
with us, and called us ■ fools and idiots for
speaking so?' Thus the priest's mouth was
stopped, many of the company acknowledged
the truth, and were pretty loving and tender.
Some would have given me money, but I
would not receive it."

With Doctor Cradock, an episcopal priest,
he had much conversation on the lawfulness
of oaths under the Gospel, at the close of
which he acknowledged that "in Gospel times.



MEMOIR OF GEORGE FOX.



65



every thing was to be established out of the
mouths of two or three witnesses, but there
was to be no swearing then." George then
asked him why he forced oaths upon Chris-
tians, contrary to his own knowledge; and
why he excommunicated Friends. The doc-
tor answered, " For not coming to church."
George thus replied to him : "Why, ye left us
above twenty years ago, when we were but
yoimg lads and lasses, to the Presbyterians,
Independents, and Baptists, many of whom
made spoil of our goods, and persecuted us
because we would not follow them. We being
but young, knew little then of your principles,
and the old men that did know them, if ye
had intended to have kept them to you, and
have kept your principles alive, that we might
have known them, ye should either not have
fled from us as ye did, or ye should have sent
us your epistles, collects, homilies, and evening
songs ; for Paul wrote epistles to the saints,
though he was in prison. But they and we
might have turned Turks or Jews for any col-
lects, homilies, or epistles we had from you
all this while. And now thou hast excommu-
nicated us, both young and old, and so have
others of you done ; that is, ' Ye have put us
out of your church, before ye have got us into
it,' and before ye have brought us to know
your principles. Is not this madness in you,
to put us out before we were brought in ? In-
deed, if ye had brought us into your church,
and when we had been in, we had done some
bad thing, that had been something like a
ground for excommunication or putting out
again. But, said I, ' what dost thou call the
church V ' Why,' said he, ' that v/hich you
call the steeple-house.' Then I asked him,
' Whether Christ shed his blood for the steeple-
house ? and purchased and sanctified the stee-
ple-house with his blood 1 And seeing the
church is Christ's bride and wife, and that
he is the head of the church, dost thou think
the steeple-house is Christ's wife and bride,
and that he is the head of that old house, or
of his people V ' No,' said he, ' Christ is the
head of his people, and they are the church.'
' But,' said I, ' you have given the title church
to an old house, which belongs to the people ;
and you have taught them to believe so.' I
asked him also, ' Why he persecuted Friends
for not paying tithes 1 And whether God ever
commanded the Gentiles to pay tithes ? And
whether Christ had not ended tithes when he
ended the Levitical priesthood that took tithes?
And whether Christ, when he sent his disci-
ples to preach, had not commanded them to
preach freely as he had given them freely ?
And whether all the ministers of Christ are
not bound to observe this command ?' He
said, ' He would not dispute that.' Neither
Vol. I.— -No. 2.



did I find he was willing to stay on that
subject; for he presently turned to another
matter, and said, ' You marry, but I know not
how.' I replied, ' It may be so : but why dost
thou not come and see V Then he threatened
that ' he would use his power against us, as
he had done.' I bid him, ' Take heed; for he
was an old man.' I asked him also, ' Where
he read from Genesis to Revelations, that ever
a priest did marry any? I wished him to show
me some instance thereof, if he would have
us come to them to be married ; for, said I,
thou hast excommunicated one of my friends
two years after he was dead, about his mar-
riage. And why dost thou not excommuni-
cate Isaac, and Jacob, and Boaz, and Ruth ?
For we do not read they were ever married
by the priests ; but they took one another in
the assemblies of the righteous, in the presence
of God and his people ; and so do we. So
that we have all the holy men and women,
that the Scriptui-e speaks of in this practice,
on our side.' Much discourse we had ; but
when he found he could get no advantage of
me, he went away with his company."

He makes the following remarks respecting
these occurrences, viz. " With such people I
was much exercised while I was there, for
most that came to the castle would desire to
s,peak with me and great disputes I had with
them. But as to Friends, I was as a man
buried alive, for though many came far to see
me, few were suifered to come to me, and
when any Friend came into the castle about
business, if he but looked toward me they
would rage at him."

It was the general impression among those
who were instrumental in detaining him a
prisoner, that he possessed great influence
over the minds of the people, and of course
could turn them for or against the government.
The political convulsions which had agitated
the nation and embroiled it in civil war, and
the recent restoration of the existing form of
government, produced a want of confidence
in its stability. The minds of the people had
not yet become settled, and of course there
was a constant apprehension lest some new
disturber should arise, and occasion fresh diffi-
culties. The high pretensions to religion which
had characterized the ruling party under Crom-
well, and the extraordinary excitement which
prevailed on that subject, naturally tended to
make the rulers suspicious of all those who
were distinguished for their strictness, or who
dissented from the form of worship established
by law.

These circumstances were made use of by

his enemies, to prejudice persons in authority

with the opinion, that George Fox and his

friends were disposed to meddle with political

9



66



MEMOIR OF GEORGE FOX.



affairs, and their meetings held for that pur-
pose.

From this cause they were subjected to much
suffering, not only in the disturbance of their
assemblies for divine worship and the seizure
of their property, often to the loss of every-
thing moveable, but confinement in prisons
where they were crowded so close and the at-
mosphere became so pestilential that scores
of them died. It is a remarkable fact, that
amid all this complicated suffering, there was
scarcely an instance of any Friend flinching
from the faithful maintainance of his testimo-
ny. They were united to each other by the
strongest ties of sympathy and love ; which
led them cheerfully to offer their bodies to lie
in prison instead of their brethren, and their
property to maintain those who were in ne-
cessitous circumstances. Even their persecu-
tors were forced to exclaim with admiration
at the nearness and disinterestedness of their
affection, " See how these Quakers love one
another ;" and to remark that they never
could put the Society down while they con-
tinued to be connected by such a tie. A most
sacred regard to the principles of their re-
ligion seemed to be the paramount feeling of
their minds. To preserve their profession
from every shade of repi'oach — to keep them-
selves unspotted from the world — and to live
and walk as strangers and pilgrims on earth,
seeking another and better country, were the
primary objects of their concern. No marvel
if the Society increased, and the blessed cause
of Christ prospered in such hands, for the
daily language of their meek and self-denying
lives preached with convincing energy ; and
held forth the winning invitation, " Come and
have fellowship with us ; for our fellowship
is with the Father and with his Son Jesus
Christ."

While the place which George Fox's minis-
try and blameless life had procured for him
among the people, was made a pretext for the
cruel treatment he experienced ; the ignorant
persons by whom he was surrounded, were too
much prejudiced to perceive that his peaceable
and non-resisting principles formed an effectual
barrier against his interference in political af-
fairs. The officers of the castle often threat-
ened him with hanging, telling him the king
had ordered him there on account of the great
interest he had with the people, and that if any
insurrection occurred, he would be hung over
the prison wall as a terror to others. This
induced him to tell them, that " if this was
what they desired, and it was permitted them
to do so, he was ready; for he never feared
death nor sufferings, but was well known to be
an innocent peaceable man, free from all plot-
tings and one that sought the good of all men."



At length his meek and patient endurance
of suffering and the blamelessness of his con- •
duct and conversation, softened the hearts of
son:ie of his keepers ; and the governor of the
castle going up to London, George desired him
to speak to Sir Francis Cobb in his behalf.
This he did and considerable interest was ex-
cited in his favour. His friends John White-
head and Ellis Hookes drew up a relation of his
imprisonment, and carried it to Esquire Marsh,
through whose interference it was laid before
the king, and an order for his release obtained.
The substance of the mandate was, that the
king being ceitainly informed that George Fox
was principled against plotting and fighting,
and ready at all times to discover plots rather
than to make any, therefore his pleasure was
that he should be discharged from imprison-
ment." No sooner was the order obtained,
than John Whitehead, anxious for the release
of his friend and brother, set off for Scarbo-
rough, and presented it to the governor, who
with great nobility assembled his officers, and
without demanding any bond or sureties for his
future peaceable conduct, freely discharged
his prisoner and presented him with the fol-
lowing passport :

" Permit the bearer hereof, George Fox, late
a prisoner here, and now discharged by his
majesty's order, quietly to pass about his law-
ful occasions without any molestation. Given
under my hand at Scarborough castle, this
first of September 1666.

" JOROAN CrOSSLANDS,

" Governor of Scarborough castle."

The constancy and faithfulness of this de-
voted servant of Jesus Christ, not only wrought
on the minds of his persecutors to convince
them of his innocence, but also produced feel- j
ings of tenderness toward Friends. On part- I
ing with the governor, George offered him a
present as an acknowledgment of his civility,
but he courteously declined, saying that " he
would do whatever good he could for him and
his friends and never do them any hurt." And
afterward if at any time he was ordered to
send down soldiers from the castle to break
up their meetings, he would privately charge
them " not to meddle," and continued kind
to Friends until his dying day. A great
change was also visible in the conduct of the
soldiers and officers at the castle ; before George
was discharged they treated him with much
more respect, and in speaking afterwards of
his integrity and firmness said, "He is as stiff
as a tree and as pure as a bell, for we never
could bow him." This imprisonment lasted
nearly three years.

George Fox as well as other of the first
Friends, sometimes had a foresight of impor-



MEMOIR OF GEORGE FOX.



67



tant events. While confined in Lancaster
castle, public report of the warlike operations
of the grand Turk excited fears in many that
he would overrun Christendom, but George
told several persons that he had seen him
turn backward ; and within a month, the in-
telligence reached England that he had been
defeated.

" Another time," he says, " as I was walking
in my chamber, with my eye to the Lord, I saw
the angel of the Lord with a glittering drawn
sword stretched southward, as though the
court had been all on fire. Not long after,
the war broke out with Holland, the sickness
broke forth, and afterwards the fire of Lon-
don; so the Lord's sword was drawn indeed."

The next day after his release the great fire
broke out in London and consumed a large
part of the city. During his confinement he
had a remarkable vision of an angel of the
Lord with a glittering sword drawn in his
hand, stretched out southward toward the
city, which he believed to be indicative of this
calamity. Three days before the fire broke
out, a Friend from Huntingdon found it his
duty to go through the streets of London, and
warn the people of its approach. He scattered
his money as he went, and loosed his knee
bands and stockings as a man who had hastily
put on his apparel; telling the people that thus
should they run up and down, scattering their
money and goods, half undressed like mad
people, for the violence of the fire; which they
did while the city was burning. But they re-
garded not the \varning.

No sooner was George Fox set at liberty,
than he resumed his labours in the ministry
of the Gospel; travelling to Whitby, Burling-
ton, Oram, Malton and Hull, until he came
to York ; visiting the meetings of Friends by
the way, and strengthening his brethren in
their religious principles. Several attempts
were made to arrest him in this journey, but
through the goodness of Divine Providence
they all failed. The meetings were generally
large and quiet, and there appeared an open-
ness to receive his testimony. At Synder-
hill Green he had a general meeting, to which
a large number of people came. The priest
of the place hearing of it, sent the consta-
ble to the justices to procure a warrant for
apprehending Friends ; but although they rode
their horses so hard as almost to spoil them,
yet the notice being short and the distance
considerable, the meeting was ended before
they arrived with the warrant. On the way
from the meeting, George Fox learned that
some of the officers were searching the Friend's
house where he was going, in order to take
him, but he not having arrived they were dis-
appointed in their object. As he proceeded



toward it, he met the constables, wardens,
and justice's clerk, coming away, and passed
through them, but they not knowing it was
he, suffered him to go unmolested. Friends
all escaped their malicious designs, " for,"
says he, " the Lord's power frustrated them :
praised be his name for ever."

George Fox continued his journey through
several of the counties of England, until he
came to London, " having many large and
precious meetings among the people. But I
was so weak, adds he, from lying almost three
years in cruel and hard iiiiprisonment, and my
joints and body were so stitfand benumbed, that
I could hardly get on my horse, or bend my
joints, nor could I well bear to be near the fire
nor to eat warm meat, I had been so long kept
from them. Being come to London I walked
a little among the ruins, and took good notice
of them. I saw the city lying according as
the word of the Lord came to me concerning
it several years before."

It becomes the members of the Society of
Friends in the present da}^, often to reflect
seriously on the sufferings which their fore-
fathers endured for the support of those prin-
ciples and testimonies which they have hand-
ed down to us. We live in a day of great
outward ease, wherein we are permitted to ex-
ercise our conscientious views on the subject
of religion without molestation. Fines and
imprisonment, and corporeal punishments are
no longer inflicted on us; and this happy ex-
emption has been in some measure purchased
for us by their faithfulness and perseverance.
If we duly estimate the privileges we enjo}^ ; if
our hearts are warmed with gratitude to that
merciful Providence who has thus wrought
our deliverance, and made our lot easy, com-
pared with the path which our predecessors
trod, we shall feel those principles and tes-
timonies very precious to us, and be reli-
giously concerned to live so watchfully in the
fear of the Lord, that nothing in our example
or conduct may lessen their value or impor-
tance, or cast a shade over the purity of our
high profession. Our birthright in the Society
of Friends, and the privileges which attach to
it, may justly be compared to a precious in-
heritance, purchased for us by the stripes and
sufferings of our ancestors ; it becomes us
therefore, to set a proportionate value upon it,
and permit nothing to rob us of so rich a
treasure.

The difticulty which occurred in the Society
from the conduct of John Perrot, has already
been noticed. His entire departure from the
Christian principles he had once professed, and
the looseness of his conduct subsequent to
his apostacy, convinced many who had been
caught with the spirit of separation, that he



MEMOIR OF GEORGE FOX.



was in error. Through Divine Goodness,
their minds were prepared to see and con-
demn their misconduct and separation, and to
return to the bosom of the church. On this
subject George Fox remarks : —

" About this time, some who had run out
from truth and clashed against Friends, were
reached by the power of the Lord, which came
wonderfully over them and made them con-
demn and tear their papers of controversy to
pieces. Several meetings we had with them,
the Lord's everlasting power was over all, and
set judgment on the head of that which had
run out. In these meetings, which lasted
whole days, several who had gone out with
John Perrot and others, came in again, and
condemned that spirit which led them to keep
on their hats when Friends prayed, and when
themselves prayed. Some of them said,
'Friends were more righteous than they;' and
that, ' If Friends had not stood they had been
gone and had fallen into perdition.' "

From London, George Fox proceeded
through Kingston, and Reading to Bristol,
where Friends were assembled from several
parts of the nation, and after having much ser-
vice at the meetings held there, he returned
again to London. Among the great numbers
who had joined in profession with the Society of
Friends, it was to be expected there would be
some less faithful than others, who might go
into things not convenient for them, and which,
if suffered to pass uncorrected, would tend to
dishonour the high profession which they made.
There were also manypoor Friends, made so by
the depredations of merciless persecutors, and
widows and orphan children, some of whose
parents had died in prison, who required the
care and attention of Friends, that all might
be duly provided for and the profession of
truth pi'eserved from any just cause of blame
or reproach.

For these reasons George Fox soon found
it expedient to establish an order in the infant
Society, and to hold meetings for its due main-
tainance, as well as for ascertaining the situa-
tion of Friends in different parts, and extend-
ing such relief or assistance as cases might
require. The first meeting of this description
that we have any account of was held at Balby
near Doncaster, in Yorkshire, in 1656. It ap-
pears however, that he had recommended the
establishment of such meetings several years
before, and probably some were held accord-
ingly, though no account of them has come
to us. General, or Yearly Meetings, as they
were sometimes called, were frequently held
in England prior and subsequently to this pe-
riod, but they appear to have been for worship
only, and not for the transaction of church
affairs. Respecting a meeting at Skipton in



1660, George Fox says, " many Friends came
to it out of most parts of the nation, for it was
about business relating to the church, both in
this nation and beyond sea. Several years
before, when I was in the north, I was moved
to recommend to Friends the setting up of this
meeting for that service, for many Friends
suffered in divers parts of the nation, their
goods were taken from them contrary to law,
and they understood not how to help them-
selves, nor where to seek redress. But after
this meeting was set up, several Friends who
had been magistrates, and others who under-
stood something of the law, came thither and
were able to inform Friends, and to assist
them in gathering up the sufferings, that they
might be laid before the justices, judges, or
parliament. This meeting had stood several
years, and divers justices and captains had
come to break it up, but when they understood
the business Friends met about, and saw their
books and accounts of collections for the relief
of the poor, how we took care, one county to
help another, and to help our friends beyond
sea, and to provide for our poor that none of
them should be chargeable to the parishes ;
the officers would confess that we did their work
and would pass away peaceably and loving-
ly, commending Friends' practice. Some-
times there would come two hundred of the
poor of other people and wait till the meeting
was done, for all the county knew we met
about the poor, and after the meeting Friends
would send to the bakers for bread and give
every one of those poor people a loaf, how
many soever there were of them, for we were
taught "to do good unto all, though especially
unto the household of faith."

This Christian principle of maintaining their
own poor and contributing also to the relief of
others, has been steadily practiced by the So-
ciety down to the present period ; and it recom-
mends to its members individually, the exercise
of liberality and benevolence toward all, ac-
cording to the means which it has pleased '
Divine Providence to bestow on them. As
the cares of the Society for its members in-
creased with their numbers, the necessity of ,
convening meetings for business more fre-
quently became obvious ; and instead of hold-
ing them once a year only, and for several "
counties, they were subsequently held every
three months and one for each county where
Friends were settled. These were called Quar-
terly Meetings, and extended the requisite care
over the Society within their respective limits.
In the year 1675, a meeting was established
in London, the object of which was to receive
accounts of the sufferings of Friends from all
parts of the kingdom, and to render such
advice and assistance as might be requisite.



MEMOIR OF GEORGE FOX.



69



This was called "the Meeting for Sufferings,"
and its duties were gradually extended to other
objects, until at length it became the represen-
tative body of the Yearly Meeting during its
recess.

In the year 1666, on his return from Bristol
to London, George Fox recommended the set-
ting up of Monthly Meetings, for the more
close and intimate inspection into the state of
the Society, and the conduct of its members,
as well as to render proper assistance to such
as might be in necessitous circumstances. To
use his own words, they were " to take care
of God's glory, and to admonish and exhort
such as walked disorderly or carelessly, and
not according to truth." Hitherto they had had
only Quarterly Meetings, which embracing a
considerable district of country as well as a
large number of members, it was more diffi-
cult to oversee them with that vigilance which
he thought requisite ; but Monthly Meetings
including smaller precincts, the care of the
church could be more readily extended to each
individual case. Several of the Monthly Meet-



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 15 of 105)