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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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winds and the waves as he saw meet, his mind
was preserved calm and peaceful. Landing
at Liverpool, he proceeded through Lancashire
and Cheshire, into Gloucestershire ; and at
Nailsworth he found a report in circulation,
that George Fox had turned Presbyterian —
that a pulpit had been prepared for him and
set up in a yard, and that there would be a
thousand people there the next day to hear
him preach. The occasion of this report was,
that a certain John Fox, an itinerant Presby-
terian preacher, was in the neighbourhood,
and gave out that he was to preach on the fol-
lowing day at the appointed place. The news
soon spread, and George, being through igno-
rance or design substituted for John, the idea
that the Friend had turned Presbyterian, at-
tracted a lai-ge company. They were soon
disappointed, however, in the character of the
preacher ; and learning that the real George
Fox was close by, several hundreds left the
Presbyterian and came to Friends' meeting,
where they were sober and attentive, " being
directed," says he, " to the grace of God in
themselves, which would teach them and bring
them to salvation."

Passing through Gloucestershire, he pro-
ceeded to Bristol, where he met with Margaret
Fell, widow of Thomas Fell, one of the judges
of the Welsh courts ; a man highly esteemed
for his piety, moderation and good sense. She
was the daughter of John Askew, of Lan-
cashire, descended of an ancient and honour-
10



74



MEMOIR OF GEORGE FOX.



able family, and born in the year 1614. After
their marriage, her husband and herself being
much engaged for their spiritual welfare, sought
the company of the most serious people, and
often had prayers and other religious exercises
in their own family. While in this inquiring
state of mind, George Fox came to their house
at Swarthmore, in 1652, and so effectually
declared the ti'uths of the Gospel, that Marga-
ret, her children, and several of the servants
were convinced. The judge was at that time
in London. On his return, the priest and jus-
tices of the neighbourhood gave him such an
account of the Quaker principles as greatly
incensed him ; but George Fox returning to
his house soon after, had a conversation with
him, and so fully answei'ed all his doubts and
objections, by the Holy Scriptures, as entirely
to convince his judgment ; and although he
did not join in membership with the Society,
yet he permitted a meeting to be settled at his
house, which continued there nearly forty
years. He died in the year 1658. His widow
was much engaged travelling through the na-
tion, attending the meetings of Friends, and
visiting such as were under suffering or afflic-
tion ; and was often concerned to plead with
persons in authority for the release of those
who were imprisoned. It was while on a visit
to one of her daughters that George Fox met
her at Bristol. They had long been intimate-
ly acquainted, and companions in suffering ;
and for a considerable time previous to this,
he had believed it would be right they should
be joined in marriage, which he had commu-
nicated to her, though not with an expectation
of proceeding therein at that time. " Where-
fore," says he, " I let the thing rest, and went
on in the work and service of the Lord, ac-
cording as he led me ; travelling in this na-
tion, and through Ireland. But now being at
Bristol, and finding Margaret Fell there, it
opened in me from the Lord that the thing
should be accomplished. After we had dis-
coursed the matter together, I told her, if she
also was satisfied with the accomplishing of it
now, she should first send for her children :
which she did. When the rest of her daugh-
ters were come, I asked both them and her
sons-in-law, if they had any thing against
it, or for it ? and they all severally expressed
their satisfaction therewith. Then I asked
Margaret, if she had fulfilled her husband's
will to her children 1 She replied, ' The chil-
dren knew she had.' Whereupon I asked
them, whether, if their mother married, they
should not lose by it? I asked Margaret,
whether she had done any thing in lieu of
it, which might answer it to the children?
The children said, she had answered it to



them, and desired me to speak no more of it.
I told them, I was plain, and would have all.
things done plainly : for I sought not any out-
ward advantage to myself. So our intention
of marriage was laid before Friends both pri-
vately and publicly, to their full satisfaction,
many of whom gave testimony that it was of
God. Afterwards, a meeting being appointed
on purpose for the accomplishing thereof, in
the public meeting-house at Broad Mead, in
Bristol, we took each other in marriage ; the
Lord joining us together in the honourable
marriage, in the everlasting covenant and im-
mortal Seed of life. In the sense whereof,
living and weighty testimonies were borne
thereunto by Friends in the movings of the
heavenly power, which united us together.
Then was a certificate, relating both the pro-
ceedings and the marriage, openly read, and
signed by the relations and by most of the
ancient Friends of that city ; besides many
others from divers parts of the nation.

" We staid about a week in Bristol, and
then went together to Oldstone : where, taking
leave of each other in the Lord, we parted,
betaking ourselves each to our several service ;
Margaret returning homewards to the north,
and I passing on in the work of the Lord as
before. I travelled through Wiltshire, Berk-
shire, Oxfordshire, Buckinghamshire, and so
to London, visiting Friends : in all which coun-
ties I had many large and precious meetings."

George Fox was about forty-five, and his
wife fifty-five years of age, at the time of their
marriage.

While in London, he addressed an epistle to
the Quarterly Meetings, advising them to as-
certain what v/idows or other poor Friends,
had children of a proper age to place appren-
tice, and that the meetings should be at the
expense of procuring them suitable situations
among Friends, where they might be taught
useful trades, so as to maintain themselves,
and assist their parents, or brothers and sis-
ters. He recommended that each Quarterly
Meeting should place out four in a year, if '
there were that number of suitable objects
within its limits.

From London he passed through Essex,
Hertford, Cambridge, and Huntingdonshires,
and wrote to his wife to meet him in Leices-
tershire ; but instead of finding her there as
he expected, he was informed that she had
been haled out of her house, and conveyed to
Lancaster prison, by an order from the king
and council, to recommit her on an old pre-
munirc, from which she had been regularly
discharged more than a year before. On re-
ceiving this intelligence, he returned through
Derbyshire and Warwickshire to London —



MEMOIR OF GEORGE FOX.



75



" having many large and blessed meetings,
and being sweetly refreshed amongst Friends"
in his travels.

On reaching London, he hastened Mary
Lower and Sarah Fell, two of his wife's
daughters, to the king to acquaint him of the
treatment of their mother ; and, if possible,
procure a discharge for her. After persever-
ing application and some difficulty, they at
length obtained an order to Sir John Otway,
directing him to write to the sheriff of Lan-
caster, and signify the king's pleasure that she
should be released. She was now fully set
at liberty, as they apprehended, from the old
premunire against her.

The act passed b}^ parliament in the year
1664, for suppressing the meetings of Friends
and other dissenters, having expired, another
was enacted in 1670, the force of which fell
heavily on Friends. When the first Conven-
ticle Act, as it was termed, was passed,
which was in 1661, Friends appeared before
the committee of the house and earnestly re-
monstrated against it, showing the injurious
tendency it would have on their rights and
liberty as subjects and as Christians. But
though supported by Waller the poet. Mallet,
Sir John Vaughan, and other distinguished
members, who spoke on the occasion, their
petitions were disregarded. Each succeeding
law was made more severe at the instigation
of the church party, who appeared determined
to exterminate Friends, if persecution would
effect it. On the passage of this last act, the
persecutors set themselves to work with fresh
appetite and dihgence. The ease of conviction
when there was no jury in the way, nor any
of the delay and trouble usually attendant on
court trials, rendered it an important acquisi-
tion to the plunderers. A single justice of the
peace could decide the case, and when the
Quakers only were concerned, all fear of re-
sistance being removed, no extortion was too
great to practice.

Archbishop Shelden issued a pastoral letter
on the occasion, in which he directs all eccle-
siastical judges and officers "to take notice of
all non-conformists, holders, frequenters, main-
tainers and abettors of conventicles, especially
of the preachers or teachers in them, and of
the places wherein they are held ; ever keep-
ing a more watchful eye over the cities and
great towns, from whence the mischief is for
the most part derived, unto the lesser villages
and hamlets. And wheresoever they find such
wilful offenders, that then with a hearty af-
fection to the worship of God, the honour of
the king and his laws, and the peace of the
church and kingdom, they do address them-
selves to the civil magistrate, justices and
others concerned, imploring their help and



assistance for preventing and suppressing the
same, according to the late act in that behalf
made and set forth.

" What the success will be we must leave
to God Almighty ; yet I have this confidence
under God, that if we do our parts now at first
seriously, by God's help and the assistance
of the civil power, considering the abundant
care and provision the act contains for our
advantage, we shall in a few months see a
great alteration in the distractions of these
times."

The bishop of Peterborough declared publicly
in the steeple-house at Rowel, after he had
commanded the officers to put this act in exe-
cution ; '' Against all fanaticks it hath done
its business, except the Quakers ; but when
the parliament sits again, a stronger law will
be made, not only to take away their lands
and goods, but also to sell them for bond-
slaves."

John Chappie, the priest of Broughton in
Lincolnshire, perceiving that the constable of
his parish was not forward in arresting his
neighbours, and making distraints on their
property, for peaceably assembling to worship
God, sent him a letter to quicken his diligence;
in which he says, " I cannot but wonder that
any king's officer should be so backward in
executing the laws, as I find you to be." " I
have sent my man on purpose to join with you
in giving information to the justices concerning
the late conventicle at Broughton. and if you
refuse to act, I have ordered my man to make
his complaint to the bench. If your landlord
Mr. Pierpont, be informed how you and others
have behaved yourselves in this business, I
know that he will not thank you for your re-
missness ; for whatever his tenants at Brough-
ton may be, sure I am he is a person more
zealous for the church."

When encouragement, persuasion, and
threats from the professed ministers of reli-
gion, were superadded to the temptation which
the law presented to the cupidity of informers,
it were no wonder if the storm of persecution
raged violently. Indeed it is difficult to con-
ceive, much more to describe the hardships
which Friends endured. In the hope of moving
some of the magistrates and justices to great-
er moderation, George Fox while in London,
wrote the following pathetic address to them :
viz. —

" O Friends, consider this act, which limits
our meetings to five. Is this ' to do as ye
would be done by V Would ye be so served
yourselves ? We own Christ Jesus as well as
you, his coming, death, and resurrection ; and
if we be contrary minded to you in some
things, is not this the apostle's exhortation, to
' wait till God hath revealed it ?' Doth not he



76



MEMOIR OF GEORGE FOX.



say, ' What is not of faith, is sini' Seeing we
have not faith in things which ye would have
us to do, would it not be sin in us if we should
act contrai'y to our faith ? Why should any
man have power over any other man's faith,
seeing Christ is the author of it? When the
apostles preached in the name of Jesus, and
great multitudes heard them, and the rulers
forbade them to speak any more in that name,
did not they bid them judge whether it were
better to obey God or man ? Would not this
act have taken hold of the twelve apostles and
seventy disciples; for they met often together?
If there had been a law made then, that not
above five should have met with Chi'ist, would
not that have been a hindering him from meet-
ing with his disciples ? Do ye think that he,
who is the wisdom of God, or his disciples,
would have obeyed it? If such a law had been
made in the apostles' days, that not above five
might have met together, who had been differ-
ent minded from either the Jews or the Gen-
tiles, do ye think the churches of Christ at
Corinth, Philippi, Ephesus, Thessalonica, or
the rest of the gathered churches, would have
obeyed it ? O therefore consider ! for we are
Christians, and partake of the nature and life
of Christ, Strive not to limit the Holy One ;
for God's power cannot be limited, and is not
to be quenched. ' Do unto all men as ye
would have them do unto you ; for that is the
law and the prophets.'

" This is from those who wish you all
well, and desire your everlasting good
and prosperity, called Quakers; who
seek the peace and good of all people,
though they afflict us, and cause us to
suffer. G. F."

He also addressed a short letter to his suf-
fering brethren, encouraging them to stand fast
in their testimony, and bear with Christian pa-
tience and resignation the trials which were
permitted to come upon them. It is as follows :

" My dear friends, keep in the faith of God,
above all outward things, and in his power
that hath given you dominion over all. The
same power of God is still with you to deliver
you as formerly ; for God and his power is
the same: his Seed is over all, and before all ;
and will be, when that which makes to suffer
is gone. Be of good faith in that which
changeth not ; for whatsoever any do against
the Truth it will come upon themselves, and
fall as a millstone on their heads. If the Lord
suffer you to be tried, let all be given up. Look
at the Lord and his power, which is over the
whole world, and will remain when the world
is gone. In the Lord's power and truth re-
joice, friends, over that which makes to suffer,
in the Seed, which was before it was ; for the



life, truth, and power of God is over all. All
keep in that ; and if ye suffer in that it is to
the Lord.

" Friends, the Lord hath blessed you in
outward things ; and now he may try you,
whether your minds be in outward things, or
with the Lord that gave you them? Therefore
keep in the Seed, by which all outward things
were made, and which is over them all. What !
shall not I pray, and speak to God, with my
face towards heavenly Jerusalem, according
to my wonted time? Let not any one's Delilah
shave his head, lest such lose their strength ;
neither rest in its lap, lest the Philistines be
upon you. For your rest is in Christ Jesus ;
therefore rest not in any thing else.

"G. F.

" London, the 12th of the
2d month, 1670."

It was not by precept only however, that he
endeavoured to strengthen his brethren. His
example was in consonance with what he re-
commended to others. On the next fii'st-day
after the act came in force, like an undaunted
soldier of Christ, he repaired to Grace Church
street meeting, where it was expected the vio-
lence of the storm would fall. On his arrival
he found the street full of people and a guard
set to keep Friends out of the house : he soon
began to preach and had proceeded but a little
while, when the constable and soldiers came,
and pulling him down, conveyed him to the
mayor's house. This officer treated him with
great mildness, and he gives the following ani-
mated account of the whole scene : viz.

" Afler I had spoken awhile, the constable
came with an informer and soldiers ; and as
they plucked me down, I said, ' Blessed are
the peace-makers.' The commander of the
soldiers put me among the soldiers, and bid
them secure me, saying to me, ' You are th^
man I looked for.' They took also John Burne-
yate, with another Friend, and had us away
first to the Exchange, and afterwards towards
Moorfields. As we went along the streets the
people were very moderate. Some of them
laughed at the constable, and told him, ' We
would not run away.' The informer went with
us unkown ; till falling into discourse with one
of the company, he said, ' It would never be
a good world till all people came to the good
old religion that was two hundred years ago.'
Whereupon I asked him, ' Art thou a Papist ?
What! a Papist informer? for two hundred
years ago there was no other religion but that
of the Papists.' He saw he had ensnared him-
self, and was vexed at it ; for as he went along
the streets, I spoke often to him, and mani-
fested what he was. When we were come to
the mayor's house, and were in the court-yard,



MEMOIR OF GEORGE FOX.



77



several asked me, ' How and for what I was
taken V I desired them to ask the informer ;
and also know what his name was : but he
refused to tell his name. Whereupon one of
the mayor's officers looking out at a window,
told him, ' He should tell his name before he
went away ; for the lord mayor would know
by what authority he intruded himself with
soldiers into the execution of those laws which
belonged to the civil magistrate to execute, and
not to the military.' After this he was eager
to be gone ; and went to the porter to be let
out. One of the officers called to him, saying,
' Have you brought people here to inform
against, and now will you go away before my
lord mayor comes V Some called to the porter
not to let him out ; whereupon he forcibly
pulled open the door and slipped out. No
sooner was he come into the street but the
people gave a shout, that made the street ring
again, crying out, ' A Papist informer ! A
Papist informer !' We desired the constable
and soldiers to go and rescue him out of the
people's hands, lest they should do him a mis-
chief. They went, and brought him into the
mayor's entry, where he staid awhile : but
when he went out again, the people received
him with such another shout. Whereupon
the soldiers were obliged to rescue him once
more ; and then they had him into a house in
an alley, where they persuaded him to change
his perriwig, so he got away unknown.

" When the mayor came, we were brought
into the room where he was, and some of his
officers would have taken off our hats ; which
he perceiving, bid them let us alone, and not
meddle with our hats ; for, said he, they are
not yet brought before me in judicature. So
we stood by, while he examined some Presby-
terians and Baptist teachers ; with whom he
was somewhat sharp, and convicted them.
After he had done with them, I was brought
to the table where he sat ; and then the officers
took off my hat. The mayor said mildly to
me, ' Mr. Fox, you are an eminent man
amongst those of your profession ; pray, will
you be instrumental to dissuade them from
meeting in such great numbers? for, seeing
Christ hath promised, that where two or three
are met in his name, he will be in the midst of
them ; and the king and parliament are gra-
ciously pleased to allow of four to meet to-
gether to worship God ; why will not you be
content to partake both of Christ's promise to
two or three and the king's indulgence to four?'
I answered to this purpose : ' Christ's promise
was not to discourage many from meeting to-
gether in his name; but to encourage the few,
that the fewest might not forbear to meet, be-
cause of their fewness. But if Christ hath
promised to manifest his presence in the midst



of so small an assembly, where but two or
three were gathered in his name, how much
more would his presence abound, whei-e two
or three hundred are gathered in his name ? I
wished him to consider whether this act would
not have taken hold of Christ, with his twelve
apostles and seventy disciples, if it had been in
their time, who used to meet often together,
and that in great numbers ? However, I told
him this act did not concern us ; for it was
made against seditious meetings, of such as
met, under colour and pretence of religion, to
contrive insurrections, as (the act says) late
experience had shown; but we had been suffi-
ciently tried and proved, and always found
peaceable ; therefore he should do well to put
a difference between the innocent and the
guilty.' He said, 'The act was made against
meetings, and a worship not according to the
liturgy.' I told him, ' [According to] was not
the very same thing ; and asked him, whether
the liturgy was according to the Scriptures ?
And whether we might not read Scriptures,
and speak Scriptures ? He said, Yes. I told
him. This act took hold only of such as met
to plot and contrive insurrections, as late ex-
perience had shown ; but they had never
experienced that by us. Because thieves are
sometimes on the road, must not honest men
travel? And because plotters and contrivers
have met to do mischief, must not an honest,
peaceable people meet to do good ? If we had
been a people that met to plot and contrive in-
surrections, we might have drawn ourselves
into fours; for four might do more mischief
in plotting than if there were four hundred,
because four might speak out their minds more
freely to one another than four hundred could.
Therefore we being innocent, and not the peo-
ple this act concerns, we keep our meetings
as we used to do ; and I said, I believed that
he knew in his conscience we were innocent.'
After some more discourse he took our names,
and the places where we lodged, and at length,
as the informer was gone, dismissed us."

Being ao-ain at liberty, he returned immedi-
ately to Grace Church street meetmg, and the
people having generally dispersed, he went to
a Friend's house and sent to know how it fared
with his brethren at the other meetings. Some
had been kept out of their meeting houses, and
others taken to prison ; but were discharged in
a few days. The firmness and patience of
Friends in meeting this storm, was of great
benefit to their religious profession, being at
once a testimony to their innocence and in-
tegrity, and a noble assertion of the right of
liberty of conscience. " A glorious time it
was, says George Fox, for the Lord's power
came over all, and his everlasting Truth got
renown. As fast as some that were speaking



78



MEMOIR OF GEORGE FOX.



were taken down, others were moved of the
Lord to stand up and speak, to the admiration
of the people, many of whom left their own
places of worship and came to see how the
Quakers would stand." After sometime the
heat of persecution began to abate, and meet-
ings became more quiet, on which George
Fox left the city and went into Middlesex,
Buckinghamshire and Oxfordshire. At Read-
ing, he found nearly all the Friends in prison,
with whom, and several others that came in,
he had a religious meeting, in which they were
refreshed with the power and presence of the
Lord.

From Reading he proceeded into Hamp-
shire, Berkshire, Sussex, and Kent, holding
meetings among Friends to their comfort and
edification ; and although it was a time of se-
vere persecution through the nation, 3^et the
Lord preserved him in a remarkable manner
out of the hands of his enemies, and strength-
ened him for his service.

The great increase of wickedness and licen-
tiousness throughout the kingdom, after the
restoration of King Charles the second, was a
source of much sorrow to Friends and other
religious persons. Many of the latter being
driven away by the cruelties practiced to-
wards dissenters, expressed their sense that
if Friends did not stand their ground, the na-
tion would be overrun with drunkenness, de-
bauchery and excess. The awful sense of
this flood of sin and wickedness, which as a
mighty torrent was sweeping through the land,
deeply affected George Fox ; and such was
the grief and exercise of his mind, that it se-
riously impaired his health. With considera-
ble difficulty he reached the house of a Friend



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 17 of 105)