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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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Gilbert follow him ; and went into the queen's
chapel, where Gilbert seeing the people on
their knees, and the candles lighted on the



LIFE OF GILBERT LATEY.



175



altar, made a halt, and asked the lord D'Au-
bigny what he meant by bidding him come
there, for, said he, thou knowest I can bow to
nothing here; upon which he answered, "Fol-
low me, and no body shall hurt you, nor med-
dle with you." Gilbert followed him through
the chapel to a room behind the altar, where
was another of the queen's priests ; and there
being some lesser altars, the lord D'Aubigny
said to Gilbert, "You never yet saw me in my
priestly habit, but now you shall ;" and whilst
he was making ready, the power of the Lord
worked so much on Gilbert, that he stepped
up on a place they called a private altar, and
began to preach ti'uth unto them. Among
other expressions, he observed, " We have an
altar of which you have no right to eat."
Whereupon the queen's priest asked, " What
altar is this you speak of?" said Gilbert, " The
altar I speak of, is that on which the saints
daily offer up their prayers to the living God :"
the priest replied, "Friend, there is no greater
state attainable than what you speak of;" and
so they parted again for that time.

Gilbert ceased not to visit the lord D'Au-
bigny, still renewing his request for kindness
to be shown to his suffering friends ; and some
time after, going to wait on him, to see if he
had any answer to letters which he had pro-
mised to write on their behalf, he acquainted
Gilbert that his friends were at liberty ; which
was joyful news to him. Some time after,
they arrived in England, came to London, and
went to visit Gilbert ; and after acknowledging
his love and endeavours for their liberty, de-
sired him to bring them to see the lord D'Au-
bigny, whom the great God had made an in-
strument of their enlargement out of severe
imprisonment.

Gilbert was very willing to accompany
them, and according to their desire, went with
them to wait on the lord D'Aubigny. When
they came, and he understood Gilbert was de-
sirous to have the liberty of seeing him, he
came to them ; and Gilbert told him his friends
who were made partakers of his great kind-
ness, and released of their bonds in Malta,
were now come to pay their acknowledgments
to him for the same. He asked if they were
the women. To which they replied, they were ;
and as the Lord put it into their hearts, they
spake to him ; adding, that were it in their
power, they should be as ready in all love to
serve him ; upon which he replied, " Good
women, for what service or kindness I have
done you, all that I desire of you is, that when
you pray to God, you will remember me in
your prayers ;" and so they parted.

Upon the coming in of King Charles II.,
great part of the nation was so transported in



idolatry and excess, and many into madness,
and so far wandered from the Spirit of God,
and slighted the motions thereof, that to wait
upon the Lord for its renewings was account-
ed a crime. Friends having then a meeting
at Stephen Hart's house, in the New Palace
Yard in Westminster ; on the third-day of the
week in the forenoon, according to their usual
manner, Gilbert and some others were met
there to worship the Lord, as they were con-
scientiously persuaded was their duty; wait-
ing upon him to feel his refreshing presence
and love shed in their hearts. As they were
thus met, two parties of foot soldiers came,
the one being of the trained-bands, the other
of the king's foot-guards ; and they differed
among themselves, which should first lay hold
of Friends ; but the guards being the stronger
party, took them into their custody. He who
commanded them, laid hold of Gilbert, and
told him that he was his prisoner, and all he
had about him was his plunder : upon which
Gilbert said. If I am thy prisoner, and all
about me thy plunder, I charge thee in the
name of the Lord, that thou see no man
hurt me, nor my friends ; for what with the
trained-bands and the guards, and the flocking
of the people, a great rude company was got
together. As the officer led Gilbert through
them, he said, and bound it with an oath, that
if any of them harmed the prisoners, he would
endeavour to be the death of them : Gilbert
was carried away prisoner, and put under the
Banqueting-house at White-Hall, where the
presence of the Lord accompanied him to his
great comfort and satisfaction, in more than
an ordinary manner, and he had good service
there for the Lord.

Notwithstanding the trials which attended
the people of God in these days, his power
prevailed, and the truth prospered, and many
were convinced and turned to the Lord.
Among these, Elizabeth Trott having received
the truth, gave up her house, which was to-
wards the end of the Pall Mall, near James's
house, for a meeting, which in a great measure
was settled by Gilbert, who was a very con-
stant attender thereof; and having acquaint-
ance with a justice of peace who lived thereby,
had often prevailed to induce him to modera-
tion. But at last he told Gilbert, that our
meeting being so near the duke's palace, he
had been much blamed about it, and now had
received positive command to put the laws in
execution, and disperse the meeting ; adding,
" I can no longer forbear coming, in order to
prosecute the commands laid upon me by so
high and eminent a hand, as his that hath given
me this matter in charge." However, Gilbert
could not forbear, but as he was persuaded



176



LIFE OF GILBERT LATEY.



was his duty, observed the command laid on
the people of God, not to forsake the assembling
of themselves together, and went to the meet-
ing, it being about the latter part of the year
1662. The justice, according to the command
he had so positively received, broke up the
meeting, and Gilbert and another public Friend
were carried away prisoners, and afterwards
Friends were often kept out, and met in the
street ; and although they were several times
taken and confined, yet Gilbert was still a fre-
quent and constant attender.

Persecution was very heavy, not only
in this city and suburbs, where many were
under confinement, for meeting to worship the
Lord ; but the same spirit was at work in other
parts of the kingdom, and Friends underwent
great sufferings and hardships in most counties,
and the people were in a light libertine spirit,
having little consideration of the " affliction
of Joseph," but were very high, proud, and
loose.

The Lord God of heaven beholding that
people's hearts were thus exalted, and his fear
trampled upon, shook his rod over this great
city, and brought a pestilence, which swept
away about an hundred thousand of its inhabi-
tants. This was in the year 1665, and Gilbert
had taken lodgings in order to go into the
country ; but as many Friends were under
close confinement in several jails for the testi-
mony of a good conscience, particularly in
Newgate, the Gate-house in Westminster, and
other prisons, Gilbert could not find freedom
to leave the city, to go and be at ease, while
his brethren were thus under sufferings, and
therefore continued there ; and according to
his wonted manner, visited them in the jails,
and endeavoured that nothing should be want-
ing for their support, or, according to his
power, to procure their enlargement.*



* It will doubtless be interesting to our readers,
to have a more particular account of this solemn
visitation of divine judgment^ The period at which
it broke out, was one of very severe persecution.
Hundreds of Friends were in the prisons, and many
on board vessels in the river under sentence of ban-
ishment for their religious principles. The fury
of the oppressor seemed nearly to have reached
its height, when it pleased the Most High to bring
this calamity on the city, which was the very
fountain of persecution. Many Friends beside
Gilbert Latey, remained in the city during the
whole time ; and though according to the saying of
Holy Scripture, " One event happeneth to the
righteous and the wicked" at such times; the Lord
being pleased to take his servants unto himself,
yet there were many remarkable instances in
which preservation was vouchsafed to those who,
from motives of benevolence and of religious duty,
spent their time in relieving the distresses of their
Butfering fellow creatures.

It is a fact deemed worthy of notice by many



In this time of sore exercise, he was also
engaged in visiting Friends in their families,
as well those under sickness, as others whom
the Lord had in measure restored again ; and
the Lord inclined several Friends in the coun-



at that time, that the disease first broke out in
Bear-binder's lane, in a house adjoining that in
which Edward Brush resided, a Friend who had
just previously been banished from his native
country for liis religion.

" Amongst the many calamities with which the
Almighty is pleased to visit the children of men,
in order to reduce them to a just sense of their
own weakness and entire dependence upon him,
there is scarcely any more productive of true
penitent humiliation, and of a sight of what is
really good and truly evil, than those contagious
distempers, which an offended God sometimes
suffers to rage amongst the people. In the year
1665 the city of London was sorely visited by the
plague : An account of the progress and efiects of
that visitation was kept by a citizen who remained
there during the whole time of the sickness, and
appears to have been candid and judicious in his
remarks thereon. I trust my readers may, in a
short description of that memorable judgment,
meet with lessons of best wisdom, which nothing
can so efl^ectually teach as a close and serious
converse with death and the grave. The intro-
duction of this contagion into London was by some
goods imported from Holland, which had been
brought thither from the Levant. It first broke
out in the house where those goods were opened,
from whence it spread to other houses. In the
first house that was infected four persons died:
A neighbour who went to visit them return-
ing home, gave the distemper to her family, and
died with all her household. The parish officers
who were employed about the sick persons, being
also infected, the physicians perceived the danger,
and, upon narrow inspection were assured that
it was indeed the plague with all its terrifying
particulars, and that it threatened a general in-
fection.

" The people began now to be alarmed all over
the town ; the usual number of burials within
the bills of mortality for a week were generally
about 240 to 300, but from the 17th to the 24th of
January, the printed bill was 474. However
this went off" again, and the frost continuing
very severe till near the end of February, the
bills decreased, and people began to look upon
the danger as good as over; but in May the
bills greatly increased, and the weather becom-
ing hot, the infection spread again in a dreadful
manner.

" I lived, says the author, without Aldgate, and
as the distemper had not reached to that side of
the city, our neighbourhood continued easy ; but
at the other end the consternation was very great,
and the nobility and gentry thronged out of the
town with their families in an unusual manner.
Nothing was to be seen but wagons, carts and
coaches with goods and people, and horse-men
attending them, hurrying away ; then empty
wagons and carts appeared, apparently returning
to fetch more people, besides numbers of people
on horseback, fitted out for travelling. This was



LIFE OF GILBERT LATEY.



177



try, to consider the poor who were under this
great calamity, and accordingly they sent
money to be distributed, a part of which was
allotted to the poor people who were ill with
the sickness, but more especially to those who

a very melancholy prospect; indeed there was
nothing else of moment to be seen. It filled my
mind with very serious thoughts of the misery
that was coming upon the city, and the unhappy
condition of those that would be left in it.

" By the end of July the contagion had spread to
a great degree : Sorrow and sadness sat upon
every face ; and though some parts were not yet
overwhelmed, all looked deeply concerned. Lon-
don might well be said to be all in tears. The
mourners did not go about the streets; nobody
made a formal dress of mourning for their nearest
relations, but the voice of mourning was indeed
heard in the streets ; the shrieks of women and
children at the windows and doors of their houses
where their dearest relations were dying, were so
frequently to be heard as we passed the streets,
that it was enough to pierce the stoutest heart.
Tears and lamentations were seen almost in every
house, especially in the first part of the visitation ;
for towards the latter end people did not so much
concern themselves for the loss of their friends,
expecting that themselves should be summoned
the next hour.

"It was a time of very unhappy breaches amongst
us in matters of religion, divisions and separate
opinions prevailed. The Church of England was
lately restored, and the Presbyterians and other
professions had set up their meetings for worship,
in which they were frequently disturbed, the
government endeavouring to suppress them. But
this dreadful visitation reconciled the different
parties, and took away all prejudice and scruple
from the people. But after the sickness was over,
that spirit of charity subsided, and things returned
to their own channel again. Here we may ob-
serve, that a nearer view of death would soon re-
concile men of good principles to one another, and
that it is chiefly owing to our easy situations in
life, and our putting these things far from us, that
dissensions are fomented, and that tliere is so
much prejudice and want of Christian charity and
union amongst us. A close view and converse
with death, or with diseases that threaten death,
would sweeten our temper, remove our animosi-
ties, and bring us to see with different eyes. On
the other side of the grave we shall all be brethren
again.

" The inns of court were all shut up, there
were few lawyers to be seen in the city, indeed
there was no need of them, for quarrels and di-
visions about interest had ceased ; every body was
at peace.

" It was also worthy of observation, as well as
fruitful of instruction, to observe with what alac-
rity the people of all persuasions embraced the
opportunities they had of attending upon the pub-
lic worship, and other appointed times of devotion,
as humiliations, fastings and public confessions of
sins, to implore the mercy of God, and avert the
judgment which hung over their heads. The
churches were so thronged, that there was often
no coming near, no, not to the very door of the
Vol. LвАФ No. 5.



were shut up in their houses in the out-parishes
without Temple Bar. This service was com-
mitted to the care of Gilbert, and one other
Friend, to visit the poor, particularly those
who were confined to their own houses, and



largest. There was also daily prayers appointed
morning and evening, at which the people attended
with uncommon devotion.

"All plays and interludes which had lately be-
gan to increase amongst us, were forbidden ; the
gaming-tables, public dancing-rooms and music-
houses, which had multiplied and began to debauch
the manners of the people, were shut up and sup-
pressed, finding indeed no trade ; for the minds of
the people were generally humbled and agitated
with other things: death was before their eyes,
and every body began to tliink of their graves.

" The infection still gradually increased till the
middle of August, when there died a thousand a
day, by account of the weekly bills, though they
never gave a full account by many thousands;
many of the parish officers were taken sick them-
selves and died when their account was to be given
in. The parish of Stepney alone had within the
year, one hundred and sixteen sextons, grave-
diggers, and carriers of the dead, &c. Indeed
the work was not of a nature to allow them
leisure to take an exact tale of the dead bodies,
which were all thrown together in the dark in a
pit, to which no man could come near without the
utmost peril.

"I had, says the author, the care of my brother's
house, which obliged me sometimes to go abroad.
In these walks I had dismal scenes before my eyes,
as, particularly, of persons falling dead in the
streets, shrieks of women, who in their agonies
would throw open their chamber-windows, and
cry out in a melancholy manner. It is impossible
to describe the various ways in which the passions
of the poor people would express themselves.
Passing through Token-house yard, of a sudden a
casement violently opened just over my head, and
a woman cried : Oh ! Death, Death, Death, which
struck me with horror and a chilness in my very
blood. There was nobody to be seen in the whole
street, neither did any window open, for people
had no curiosity now in any case,

" Death did not now hover over every one's head
only, but looked into their houses and chambers,
and even stared in their very faces ; and though
there was some stupidity and dulness of mind, yet
there was a great deal of just alarm sounded in
the inmost soul. Many consciences were awaken-
ed ; many hard hearts melted into tears ; many a
penitent confession was made of crimes long con-
cealed. People might be heard even in the streets
as we passed along, calling upon God for mercy,
through Jesus Christ, and saying : I liave been a
thief; I have been an adulterer ; I have been a
murderer, and the like; and none durst stop to
make inquiry into such things, or to administer
comfort to the poor creature, \\A\o in the anguish
both of soul and body thus cried out.

" Many were tlie warnings that were then given
by dying penitents to others, not to put off their
repentance to a day of distress, and that such a
time of calamity as this was no time for repent-
ance. I wish, says the author, I could repeat the
23



178



LIFE OF GILBERT LATEY.



as near as they could they neglected none,
but went and administei'ed the charity to them,
many of whom had running sores upon them ;
and the Lord was with him to preserve him in
health. After the contagion was much abated,

very sound of those groans and exclamations that
I heard from some poor dying creatures, when in
the height of their agonies and distress, and that
I could make him that reads this hear, as I imagine,
I now hear them, for the sound seems still to ring
in my ears. In the beginning of September the
number of burials increasing, the church-wardens
of Aldgate parish ordered a large pit to be dug, to
hold all the dead who might die in a month, it was
about forty feet long and sixteen broad. Some
blamed the church-wardens for sufiering such a
frightful gulf to be dug ; nevertheless in two weeks
they had thrown more than eleven hundred bodies
into it, when they were obliged to fill it up, as the
bodies were come within six feet of the surface.

"I must not omit mentioning the disposition of
the people of that day, with respect to their charity
to the poor, which indeed was very large both in
a public and a private way. Some pious ladies
were so zealous in this good work, and so confi-
dent in the protection of Providence in the dis-
charge of this great duty, that they went about
themselves distributing alms, and visiting the poor
families that were infected, in their very houses,
appointing nurses and apothecaries to supply them
with what they wanted; thus givmg their blessings
to the poor in substantial relief, as well as hearty
prayers for them. I will not undertake to say,
that none of these charitable people were suffered
to die of the plague, but this I may say, that I
never knew that any of them died, which I men-
tion for the encouragement of others in case of
like distress ; and doubtless, if they that give to
the poor lend to the Lord, and he will repay it,
those that hazard their lives to give to the poor,
and to comfort and assist them in such a misery as
this, may hope to be protected therein.

" From the middle of August to the middle of
September the infection still mcreased and spread
itself, with an irresistible fury. It was reckoned,
that during that time there died no less than six-
teen hundred a day, one day with another. It was
then that the confusion and terror was inexpressi-
ble. The courage of the people appointed to carry
away the dead, began to fail them : the vigilance
of the magistrates was put to the utmost trial.
At last the violence of the distemper came to such
a height, that the people sat still looking at one
another, and seemed quite abandoned to despair.
In a word, they began to give themselves up to
fear, that there was nothing to be expected but a
universal desolation. Despair made them bold and
venturous, they were no more shy of one another,
as expecting there was now no avoiding the dis-
temper, but that all must go. This brought them
in crowds to the churches ; they inquired no more
what condition the people who sat near them were
in, but looking upon tliemselves also as so many
dead corps, they came to the churches without tlie
least caution, and crowded together, as if their
lives were of no consequence, compared to the
work which they were come about. Indeed, their
zeal in coming, and the earnestness and affection-



and the. mortality decreased, there happening
a matter of difference, Gilbert was chosen an
arbitrator for putting an end to it ; and the
hearing of both parties taking much time, and
all the while sitting in a cold damp room, he



ate attention they showed to what they heard,
made it manifest what value people would put
upon the worship of God, if tliey thought every
day they attended would be their last.

"It was in the height of this despair, that it
pleased God to stay his hand, and to slacken the
fury of the contagion, in a manner as surprising
as that of its beginning, and which demonstrated
it to be his own particular hand above the agency
of means. Nothing but omnipotent power could
have done it. The contagion despised all medi-
cine : death raged in every corner, and had it gone
on as it did then, a few weeks more would have
cleared the town of all its inhabitants. In that
very moment when thirty thousand were dead in
three weeks, nay, when it was reported three
thousand died in one night, and an hundred thou-
sand more were taken sick, when we might well
say. Vain was the help of man, it pleased God to
cause the fiary of it to abate, and by his immediate
hand to disarm the enemy. It was wonderful !
The physicians were surprised, wherever they
visited, to find their patients better, and in a few
days every body was recovering.

" Nor was this by any medicine found out, or any
new method of cure discovered ; it was evidently
from the secret invisible hand of him that had at
first sent this disease, as a judgment upon us. Let
the philosophers search for reasons in nature to
account for it, and labour as much as they will to
lessen the debt they owe to their Maker ; those
physicians who had the least share of religion in
them, were obliged to acknowledge, that it was all
supernatural. The streets were now full of poor
recovering creatures, who appeared very sensible
and thankful to God for their unexpected delive-
rance : Yet I must own, that as for the generality
of the people, it might too justly be said of them,
as was said of the children of Israel, after they
had been delivered from the host of Pharaoh, that
they sung his praise, but soon forgot his icorks.

" The author, who was preserved unhurt with his
whole family, during the time of the sickness,
gives a particular account of the reasonings and
fears which aflJected his mind, before he could
come to a fixed conclusion, whether to stay, and
take his lot in the station in which God had placed
him, or by leaving the city, run the hazard of un-
settling himself At the earnest solicitations of
his brother he had concluded to go ; but being al-
ways crossed in this design by accidents, it came
one morning, as he expresses it, very warmly in
his mind, whether these repeated disappointments
were not intimations to him, that it was the will
of heaven he should not go. This was succeeded
by a further thought, that if it was from God, he
was able effectually to preserve him in the midst
of all deaths and dangers that would surround him,
and that if he attempted to secure himself, by flee-
ing from his habitation, and acted contrary to these
intimations, which he believed to be divine, it was



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 39 of 105)