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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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in order that they might be able to preach to
the inhabitants the glad tidings of redemption
through a crucified Saviour, and to translate
works which would tend to promote Christian
knowledge.



22



INTRODUCTORY REMARKS.



Nor was this Christian concern for the pro-
mulgation of the gospel confined to George
Fox. William Penn, in his frequent inter-
course with the Indians, took especial care not
only to teach them Christianity by precept,
but, by a just, liberal and blameless conduct
and example, to prepare their minds for the
reception of its sublime truths. Ministers of
the Society, at different periods, travelled into
remote countries, without the least prospect of
temporal reward, in order to declare unto
others that free salvation, of which, through
the mercy of God, they were made partakers.

In advocating the cause of religious and
civil liberty, the Society of Friends has al-
ways stood conspicuous. During a protracted
period of persecution and suffering, they nobly
refused to sacrifice their conscientious scru-
ples, maintaining a patient but firm and un-
yielding opposition to the arbitrary intole-
rance and cruelty of those in power. Their
steadfastness and boldness in suffering, not
only relieved other dissenters from the sharp-
ness of persecution, but tended to prepare the
way for those more correct views of tolera-
tion which subsequently obtained.

Baxter, though not favourably disposed to-
wards Friends, bears testimony to their con-
stancy under the cruel operation of the Con-
venticle Act, observing, " Here the Quakers
did greatly relieve the sober people for a time ;
for they were so resolute, and so gloried in
their constancy and sufferings, that they as-
sembled openly at the Bull and Mouth, near
Aldersgate, and were dragged away daily to
the common jail, and yet desisted not, but the
rest came next day. Abundance of them died
in prison, and yet they continued their assem
blies still."

On this passage, Orme, the biographer of
Baxter, makes this remark : " Had there been
more of the same determined spirit among
others, which the Friends displayed, the suf-
ferings of all parties would sooner have come
to an end. The government must have given
way, as the spirit of the country would have
been effectually roused. The conduct of the
Quakers was infinitely to their honour." In
another note relative to Friends, the same
writer remarks, " The heroic and persevering
conduct of the Quakers, in withstanding the
interferences of government with the rights of
conscience, by which they finally secured
those peculiar privileges they so richly de-
serve to enjoy, entitles them to the veneration
of all the friends of civil and religious free-
dom."

There is no doubt that the persecutions
which disgraced England during the seven-
teenth century, and of which Friends in com-
mon with other dissenters bore so large a



share, contributed very much toward the in-
troduction and establishment of those more
liberal and correct views of toleration and
civil liberty, which succeeded, and so happily
distinguish the present times. The constancy
of Friends under suffering ; their uniform tes-
timony in favour of liberty of conscience to
all ; the boldness with which they exposed the
rapacity and illegal proceedings of the perse-
cuting priests, justices and judges; and their
repeated and earnest applications to the king
and parliament, were eminently instrumental
in preparing the way for the passage of the
Toleration Act, under WiUiam and Mary, in
1688.

It was not as a boon for themselves, that
they urged the adoption of this great measure :
they took the simple ground, that liberty of
conscience was the right of all men ; and that
all interference of the government in matters
of religion, by which the subject was debarred
from the exercise of this right, provided he
did not molest others, was contrary to Chris-
tianity, to reason, and to sound policy.

In framing the government of Pennsylvania,
William Penn adopted these principles, and
carried them out to the fullest extent ; not only
tolerating every religion which owned the ex-
istence of a God, but making the professors
of all, eligible to offices.

Sir James Macintosh, in his History of the
Revolution in England, in explaining the part
which William Penn took in defending the de-
claration of indulgence issued by James, a
measure which, however just the rights it
granted, was nevertheless denounced as an
unconstitutional and arbitrary assumption of
power, has these observations : " The most
distinguished of their converts was William
Penn, whose father, Admiral Sir William
Penn, had been a personal friend of the king,
and one of his instructors in naval affairs.
This admirable person had employed his great
abilities in support of civil as well as religious
liberty, and had both acted and suffered for
them, under Charles II. Even if he had not
founded the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania,
as an everlasting memorial of his love of free-
dom, his actions and writings in England
would have been enough to absolve him from
the charge of intending to betray the rights of
his countrymen. But though the friend of
Algernon Sidney, he had never ceased to in-
tercede, through his friends at court, for the
persecuted. An absence of two years in Amer-
ica, and the occupation of his mind, had pro-
bably loosened his connexion with English po-
liticians, and rendered him less acquainted
with the principles of the government. On
the accession of James, he was received by
that prince with favour, and hopes of indul-



INTRODUCTORY REMARKS.



23



gence to his suffering brethren were early held
out to him. He was soon admitted to terms
of apparent intimacy, and was believed to pos-
sess such influence, that two hundred suppli-
ants were often seen at his gates, imploring
his intercession with the king. That it really
was great, appears from his obtaining a pro-
mise of pardon for his friend, Mr. Locke,
which that illustrious man declined, because
he thought that the acceptance would have
been a confession of criminality. He appears,
in 1679, by his influence on James, when in
Scotland, to have obtained the release of all
the Scotch Quakers who were imprisoned, and
he obtained the release of many hundred Qua-
ker prisoners in England, as well as letters
from Lord Sunderland to the lord lieutenants
in England, for favour to his persuasion, seve-
ral months before the declaration of indul-
gence. It was no wonder that he should be
gained over by this power of doing good. The
very occupations in which he was engaged,
brought daily before his mind the general evils
of intolerance and the sufferings of his own
unfortunate brethren." " It cannot be doubted
that he believed the king's object to be, uni-
versal liberty in religion, and nothing farther.
His own sincere piety taught him to consider
religious liberty as unspeakably the highest of
human privileges, and he was too just not to
be desirous of bestowing on all other men,
that which he most earnestly sought for him-
self He who refused to employ force in the
most just defence, felt a singular abhorrence
of its exertion to prevent good men from fol-
lowing the dictates of their conscience." p. 289.

Previous to this period, William Penn had
written and suffered much in defence of liberty
of conscience, and it was to be expected that
when thousands of his friends were suffering
imprisonment and spoliation by merciless in-
formers and magistrates, he would eagerly
embrace the relief afforded by the king's in-
dulgence, without a very profound investiga-
tion of the disputed point of royal prerogative,
or the secret motives which influenced the
crown.

Another subject which claimed the early at-
tention of George Fox, was the promotion of
useful learning. He recommended the estab-
lishment of two boarding-schools, which were
accordingly opened, one for boys and the other
for girls. Although the Society has always
contended that human learning was not an es-
sential requisite for the ministry of the gospel,
yet it has, from a very early period, been care-
ful to provide for its members the benefits of
education. The following recommendation
was issued by the Yearly Meeting, as early as
the year 1695, viz. :

"Advised, that school masters and mis-



tresses who are faithful Friends and well qua-
lified, be encouraged in all counties, cities,
great towns, or other places where there may
be need ; and that care be taken that poor
Friends' children may freely partake of such
education as may tend to their benefit and ad-
vantage, in order to apprenticeship." From
that period to the present time, the subject has
frequently been earnestly enjoined on the at-
tention of Friends, and large sums expended
in founding seminaries for their youth. Soon
after the settlement of Philadelphia, William
Penn founded a grammar-school for Greek
and Latin, and incorporated a board of educa-
tion, which is still in operation, under the title
of " The Overseers of the Public School found-
ed by charter, in the town and county of Phi-
ladelphia, in Pennsylvania," with a corporate
seal bearing this inscription : " Good instruc-
tion is better than riches."

It would not be practicable in this brief
sketch, to do justice to other members of the
Society, who aided in carrying out the liberal
views which we have endeavoured to portray.
It is sufficient to remark, that those views were
the general characteristics of the Society, and
some of them peculiar to it. For a long pe-
riod they maintained many of them single-
handed and in opposition to the general voice
of the community. That their faithful labours
in these great works of Christian benevolence,
have contributed to bring them to their present
condition, cannot be denied ; nor yet that the
principles of the Society of Friends, and the
practices consequent upon them, are eminently
calculated to promote the religious and moral
improvement of mankind, and to augment the
sum of luiman happiness.

It is no less the privilege and interest, than
it is the duty of Christians to be diligent in
the use of those means which a merciful Pro-
vidence has placed within their reach, for at-
taining a correct knowledge of the principles
and practices of our holy religion.

If we have a proper sense of the shortness
and uncertainty of life, of our responsibility
as accountable and immortal beings, and of
the vast importance of the concerns which re-
late to the salvation of the soul, we shall not
rest satisfied, without a careful inquiry into
the truth of those doctrines and precepts, by
which we profess to regulate our conduct, and
to build our hopes of future happiness, in a
world that will never have an end. We shall
frequently ponder the inspired pages of Holy
Writ, as the divinely authorized record of the
Christian religion, and raise our hearts in as-
pirations to our heavenly Father for the light
of his Holy Spirit, to illumine our darkness,
and give us a saving knowledge of the Truth
as it is in Jesus. Nor will it be less interest-



24



INTRODUCTORY REMARKS.



ing to us, to trace out the result of these prin-
ciples, as exhibited in the examples of those
who have gone before us. — To inquire what
fruits of holiness they produced in their con-
duct and conversation, — what support they de-
rived from them, amid the trials inseparable
from mortal existence, and what consolation
and hope they yielded in the hours of disease
and of death. If, in the course of our re-
searches, we discover that they were remark-
able for their justice, their integrity, their
meekness and humility — were patient under
suffering, even when wrongfully inflicted ;
zealously devoted to the cause of Christ, and
cheerfully given up to spend their time and
substance for its advancement ; " blameless
and harmless, in the midst of a crooked and
perverse generation, amongst whom they shone
as lights in the world," we may be assured
that the tree whence these fruits of the Gos-
pel sprung could not be evil. The faith which
showed itself by such works of righteousness
must be that by which the saints of old " ob-
tained a good report," and which was their
victory. If we follow them to the chamber
of sickness and to the bed of death, witness
the tranquility and composure of their spirits ;
their humble, yet steadfast, reliance on the
mercy of God, through Christ Jesus ; their
peace and joy in believing ; and their hope
full of immortality and eternal life, we shall
not only derive the strongest evidence of the
soundness of their Christian belief, but, in ad-
miration of its blessed and happy effects, be
incited to follow them, as they followed Christ.

Differing, as Friends do, in some points,
from their fellow-professors of the Christian
name, construing the requisitions of the Gos-
pel with especial reference to the spiritual na-
ture of true religion, and its non-conformity
to the fashion of " the world which lieth in
wickedness," their peculiarities in doctrine,
manners, and phraseology, have, ever since
their first rise, subjected them to greater or
less degrees of misrepresentation and obloquy.
For, although they have uniformly appealed
to the Holy Scriptures, as the standard and
test. of all their doctrines and practices, freely
rejecting whatever should be proved to be in-
consistent with their Divine Testimony, yet,
either through ignorance, or prejudice, or the
force of sectarian attachments, their repeated
declarations have been disregarded or pervert-
ed, in order to represent them as slighting
those Sacred Writings, and their principles as
scarcely deserving the name of Christian.

It is often more easy to disparage the char-
acter of an opponent, by loading him with
opprobrious epithets, than to refute his posi-
tions by sound and solid arguments ; and
mankind are generally so prone to adopt this



course, rather than take the trouble of impar-
tial investigation, that it is not surprising the
terms enthusiasts, fanatics, Jesuits, and others
of similar or more odious impoi't, should have
been freely bestowed on Friends, and credited
by too many. Those who have not had the
opportunity, or who have disliked the task of
ascertaining their real belief, and whose im-
pressions have been chiefly derived from cari-
catures, drawn by persons whose object and
interest it is to place them iii the wrong, could
scarcely fail to form opinions unfavourable to
them as a body, however they might respect
the piety and sincerity of individual members.
Nor would it be surprising if the frequent and
confident reiteration of grave, though unjust,
charges, should have the effect to awaken
doubts even in the minds of the uninformed
members themselves ; to lessen their esteem
for those devoted Christians, who were the in-
struments, divinely fitted and made use of, in
founding the Society ; and to induce the ap-
prehension that the way, and the people, thus
" everywhere spoken against," must indeed
have little claims to Christianity.

It may not be inappropriate to remind the
reader, that the Son of God himself was " set
for a sign that should be spoken against ;" and
such has been the lot of his Church, from the
earliest periods of its existence. Had the pro-
pagation of the Gospel in the days of the apos-
tles depended on the estimation in which they
were held by the wise, the learned, and pow-
erful of this world, or on the report which
they gave of its character and design, it must
have made little progress ; but there were many
others beside the Bereans, who were more no-
ble than to be influenced by such means, and
who searched for themselves " whether these
things were so."

Happily for the Society, it has nothing to
fear from investigation conducted in the spirit
of candor and fairness. The various accusa-
tions against it, have been fearlessly met and
refuted ; and, of those who may entertain
doubts respecting the soundness of its faith, it
asks a calm and dispassionate attention to its
authorized vindications, and to its official de-
clarations of faith. Whatever ambiguity may
hang over the essays of some of its writers,
arising either from the heat of controversy,
the redundant and loose phraseology of the
times, or from unduly pressing an argument,
in order to discredit the premises of an antag-
onist, by exposing the consequences deducible
from them ; the declarations of faith and the
official acts of the Society, prove conclusively,
that on the points where they have been most
questioned, their views are clear and Scrip-
tural. The records of the Society also show
a long list of worthies, whose dying hours and



INTRODUCTORY REMARKS.



25



sayings bear ample testimony that the princi-
ples in which they had lived, and by which
they endeavoured to regulate their actions,
did not fail them in the near prospect of death
and eternity ; but administered all that support,
consolation, and animating hope, which give
to the death-bed of the Christian its peculiar
interest.

It is especially obligatory on the members
to be conversant in these matters. Ignorance
of them, where the means of information are
accessible, is discreditable, if not culpable.
We should be prepared to give to every one
that asketh us, a reason for our faith and hope.
If the things which belong to our peace have
a due place in our affections, we shall medi-
tate with pleasure on the experience of those
who have trodden the path of virtue before us.
The fervour of our piety, the strength of our
attachment to religious truth, will be promoted
by frequently perusing their excellent writings,
and dwelling in serious contemplation on the
bright example they have left us, adorned
with the Christian graces, and inviting us to
follow in their footsteps.

To whatever department of human pursuit
we direct our attention, we perceive that men
delight in the productions of congenial minds.



He who finds that he has little relish for seri-
ous things, and that it is difficult to fix his
attention upon them, may safely infer that his
heart is not right in the sight of God, nor its
aspirations directed toward the kingdom of
heaven. The religious man delights to dwell
on those things which concern the salvation
of his soul. He feels a lively interest in the
saints and holy men who have entered the
celestial city before him ; and as he contem-
plates their blameless walk, their faith and
patience under trials, their simple obedience
and dedication, and above all, the blessed ani-
mating hope of an eternal inheritance, which
shed a bright radiance around their dying
beds, his whole soul kindles with desire to
arise and gird himself anew for the journey,
and with increased diligence and ardour, to
press toward the mark for the prize of his
high calling of God in Christ Jesus.



Beside the authorities mentioned in the
course of the Introductory Remarks, the Edi-
tors are indebted to Hume's History of Eng-
land, Neale's History of the Puritans, Gough's
History of Friends, Clarendon's History of the
Rebellion.



Vol. I.— No. 1.



MEMOIR



OF THE



LIFE OF GEORGE FOX.



It would seem improper to enter on the publication of other works, until some notice had been
taken of George Fox, the founder of the Society. As his Journal has recently been
stereotyped, and an edition of it circulated, the Editors thought it not necessary to reprint
it, at present. They have therefore prepared a short memoir of this eminent man, for the
purpose of bringing into view his remarkable life and character, and exhibiting, succinctly,
the rise of the Society, its principles and discipline.



George Fox was born in the month called
July, old style, now the fifth month, in the
year 1624, at Drayton in the Clay, Leicester-
shire, England, which appears to be the same
as is now called Fenny Drayton.* His pa-
rents were Christopher and Mary Fox, who,
though in humble circumstances, were highly
esteemed by their neighbours for piety and
uprightness. His father was a weaver, and
was called Righteous Christer, in consequence
of the strictness and sobriety of his life. Both
he and his wife endeavoured to bring up their
children in an exemplary manner, according
to the religion of the Episcopal Church, to
which they belonged. But it suited neither
their circumstances nor situation in life, to
give their children much learning, and George
enjoyed no other literary advantages than
those of a plain English education. From a
child he was of a religious and observing turn
of mind ; and such were the gravity and inno-
cency of his spirit, that his relations were de-
sirous he should be educated for the ministry.
His mother taking notice of his serious tem-
per, and of his piety and stability, was very



* This sketch of the life of George Fox is chiefly
compiled from his Journal, of which, Sir James
Macintosh says, it is " one of the most extraordi-
nary and instructive narratives in the world —
which no reader of competent judgment can pe-
ruse without revering the virtue of the writer."



watchful and tender over him ; endeavouring
to cherish his religious impressions and to
strengthen him in good I'esolutions. When
very young, he refused to join in vain and
childish sports, or to mingle in the company of
rude or irreligious persons ; and when he saw
any behaving themselves lightly, it excited
sorrow, and occasioned him to say within
himself, " If ever I come to be a man, surely
I shall not do so ; nor be so wanton."

" While I was a child," says he, " I was
taught how to walk so as to be kept pure.
The Lord taught me to be faithful in all
things ; to act faithfully two ways, viz., in-
wardly to God, and outwardly to man, and to
keep to yea and nay in all things. For the
Lord showed me, though the people of the
world have mouths full of deceit and change-
able words, that I was to keep to yea and nay
in all things ; that my words should be {"ew
and savoury, seasoned with grace, and that I
might not eat and drink to make myself wan-
ton, but for health, using the creatures in their
service, as servants in their places, to the glory
of Him that created them."

Some of his relations objecting to his beina
made a priest, he was apprenticed to a shoe-
maker, who also dealt in wool. George's
business was principally in the fields, tending
the flocks of sheep, an employment well suited
to his retiring and contemplative disposition,



28



MEMOIR OF GEORGE FOX.



and strikingly emblematical of his future ser-
vice in the church.

While in his master's employ, much pro-
perty and money passed through his hands ;
and being governed by the preserving power
of divine grace, he was scrupulously careful
to wrong none, but to exercise justice and
honesty toward all. In his dealings he fre-
quently used the M^ord, ' verily,' and such was
his known firmness in adhering to his word,
that it became a common observation among
those who knew him, " If George sajs ' veri-
ly,' there is no altering him."

The simplicity and plainness of his appear-
ance and demeanor, sometimes excited the
ridicule of rude persons, of which he took
little notice ; but sober people generally loved
him for his innocency and integrity. His ten-
der mind was often grieved with the inconsist-
ent conduct of the professors of religion. On
one occasion, when about nineteen years of
age, having observed the light and unprofita-
ble conversation and conduct of some, and the
eagerness with which others were pursuing
the riches of this world, though both made a
high profession of religion, his mind was
deeply afiected ; and withdrawing from the
company, he spent the greater part of the
night alone, in prayer, mourning because of
the wickedness which abounded in the world.
In this situation, the language was intelligibly
addressed to his mind, " Thou seest how young
people go together into vanity, and old people
into the earth : — Thou must forsake all, old
and young, and be as a stranger unto all."

About the twentieth year of his age, his ex-
ercises increased ; he broke off" all familiarity
with his former acquaintance, and travelled
into Northampton and Buckinghamshire, and
by Newport-Pagnel and Barnet, to London,
seeking for the most religious professors ;
hoping to find in their society some relief for
his tribulated spirit. For a time, however, his
distress increased, and satan, taking advan-
tage of his sorrows, tempted him to despair of
the mercy of God in Christ Jesus. Not suc-
ceeding in this snare, he tried to draw him



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 6 of 105)