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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cessors caused them more deep and bitter suf-
ferings at their first appearance, but their faith-
fulness was not shaken ; through it all they
held fast their profession without wavering.

Believing that none could preach the Gos-
pel but those whom Christ Jesus called, quali-
fied, and commissioned for the work, and that
these necessary qualifications were without re-
gard to human learning or ordination, riches,
station or sex, and that all those thus anointed
and engaged in the work were commanded by
their Divine Master to give as freely as they
had received, he bore a decided and faithful
testimony against making merchandize of the
Gospel and receiving a pecuniary compensa-
tion for preaching. He deplored the covetous
spirit which was apparent among many who
took upon them the responsible office of the
ministry, which induced them to seek for the
highest salaries, leaving their flocks and places



for greater wages, and pleading a call from
the Lord so to do. Against this practice he
testified, as an abomination and crying sin.
" O," says he, " the vast sums of money that
are got by the trade they make of the Scrip-
tures and by their preaching, from the highest
bishop to the lowest priest ! What trade in the
world is comparable to it, notwithstanding
the Scriptures were given forth freely; Christ
commanded his ministers to preach freely, and
the prophets and apostles denounced judgment
against all covetous hirelings and diviners for
money. In the free spirit of the Lord Jesus,
was I sent forth to declare the word of life
and reconciUation freely, that all might come
to Christ, who gives freely, and renews up
into the image of God which man and woman
were in before they fell, that they might sit
down in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus."

In the year 1650 he visited Derby and
preached to the people, for which the officers
arrested him and took him before the magis-
trates, who, after an examination of eight
hours' length, committed him and John Fret-
well, who was with him, to the house of cor-
rection, where they were confined six months.

During the examination. Justices Bennet
and Bai'ton endeavoured to draw from him
some expression by which they might prove
him guilty of holding blasphemous opinions.
They asked him " If he had no sin V — to
which he replied, " Christ, my Saviour, has
taken away my sins, and in him there is no
sin." Then they asked " how the Quakers
knew that Christ did abide in them?" — and
were answered, " By his spirit that he had
given them." Finding nothing in this upon
which to ground a charge, they ensnaringly
asked, " whether any of them were Christ V
To which George promptly replied, " Nay —
We are nothing — Christ is all.'''' This full
acknowledgment of their own nothingness and
the all-sufficiency of the Saviour, defeated their
design — but still anxious to convict him, and, if
possible, prove a coincidence between the Qua-
kers and the Ranters, they asked, " If a man
steal, is it no sin V — alluding to the monstrous
notions of that sect, by which moral good and
evil wei'e confounded. George answered them
in the words of Holy Scripture, " All unright-
eousness is sin." But although he thus clear-
ed himself and his fellow-professors from their
imputations yet they made out a mittimus,
and sent him and his companion to prison,
as persons charged with uttering and broach-
ing divers blasphemous opinions, contrary to
the late act of parliament.

His relations were much concerned about
his imprisonment, and ofliered to be bound that
he should come to the town no more, if the
justices would discharge him. But George

Vol. I.— No. L

told them, that having done no wrong he could
not consent to have any one bound for him, a
practice which he and his friends adhered to
through all their long imprisonments. One of
the justices was much enraged at his refusal,
and as George was kneeling down to pray for
him, he ran upon him and struck him with both
his hands, crying to the gaoler, " Away with
him — take him away, gaoler." It was this
justice, Gervas Bennet, who first called Friends
Quakers, because George Fox bid him tremble
at the word of the Lord.

The time of his commitment was now near-
ly out, and the parliament being engaged in
raising troops, a commission as captain of one
of the new regiments was offered to him by
some of the officers of government. But
George Fox objected to receiving it on con-
scientious grounds. He believed that instead
of war and bloodshed, the Gospel of Christ
breathed " peace on earth and good will to
men" — that the Son of God came not to de-
stroy men's lives, but to save them, and to
teach mankind to love their enemies, instead
of fighting them — to do good rather than
evil to those who hate them, and to pray for
those who despitefuUy use them. " I told
them," he remarks, " that I knew from whence
all wai's and fightings arose, even from men's
lusts, according to the Apostle James' doctrine,
and that I lived in the virtue of that life and
power that took away all occasion of wars."
Still they persuaded him to accept their offer,
and finding they could not prevail, they be-
came angry and ordered him to be thrust into
the common jail, among the felons. This was
a most noisome, offensive place, infested with
vermin ; and there, among thirty abandoned
rogues, he was kept almost half a year.

Many came to see him during this imprison-
ment, and among others, a soldier who had
been a Baptist. This man said to him, " Your
faith stands in a man that died at Jerusalem,
and there was never any such thing." " Be-
ing exceedingly grieved to hear him," observes
George, " I said, ' How ! did not Christ suffer
without the gates of Jerusalem, through the
professing Jews, chief priests and Pilate V He
denied that Christ ever suffered there outward-
ly. Then I asked him whether there were not
chief priests, and Jews and Pilate there out-
wardly ? When he could not deny that, I told
him, as certainly as there was a chief priest,
and Jews, and Pilate there outwardly, so cer-
tainly was Christ persecuted by them, and did
suffer there outwardly under them. Yet from
this man's words, was a slander raised against
us, that the Quakers denied Christ that sutTer-
ed and died at Jerusalem, which was all utter-
ly false, for the least thought of it never en-
tered our hearts."



George Fox early bore a testimony against
taking away human life under judicial proceed-
ings. While he was in prison, a young wo-
man was brought there for robbing her mas-
ter. When she was about to be tried, he wrote
to the judges and jury, showing them how
contrary it was to the law of God to put per-
sons to death for such offences. She was,
however, condemned to die, and he then wrote
a warning, to be read at the place of execu-
tion, against covetousness and greediness after
the things of this world, v/hich lead people
away from God and into many hurtful things.
The woman was pardoned, and afterward be-
came a Friend.

After being a prisoner almost a year, six
months of which he passed in the house of
correction, and the remainder in the common
jail, he was set at liberty about the beginning
of winter, in 1651 ; and immediately resumed
his travels, going into Leicestershire, Notting-
hamshire, and Yorkshire, pi-eaching repent-
ance and amendment of life, wherever he
came. In several places he met with very
cruel usage, being beaten and stoned so as to
endanger his life ; but through the goodness
of his gracious Lord, he was soon healed, and
nothing daunted by the hardships he endured,
persevered as a good soldier of Jesus Christ
in proclaiming the glad tidings of salvation
and peace.

He now became known to many of the
justices, some of whom formed a favourable
opinion of his doctrine and treated him with
marked kindness. Justice Hotham, of Crant-
sick, was of this character. He acknowledged
that " If God had not raised up this principle
of light and life, which he had known ten
years, and which George preached, the na-
tion would have been overrun with ranterism,
and all the justices in the nation could not
have stopped it with all their laws ; because,"
said he, " they would have said as we said,
and done as we commanded, and yet have
kept their own principle still. But this prin-
ciple of truth overthrows their principle in the
root and ground thereof; therefore, he was
glad the Lord had raised up this principle of
life and truth."

In 1652, coming to Tickhill, he sat some
time with Friends at their meeting, and then
went to the public worship house, and began
to address the people. But they immediately
fell upon him and beat him — the clerk striking
him on the face with a bible, so that the blood
gushed out on the floor of the house : then
they cried, " Let us have him out of the
church," and accordingly dragged him out
and beat him, knocked him down and threw
him over a hedge : then they dragged him
through a house into the street, stoning and

beating him as they went, so that he was co-
vered with blood and dirt. As soon as he
could recover himself and get upon his feet,
he preached repentance to them, showing them
the fruits of their false profession and how
they disgraced the Christian name. After
some time he got into the meeting of Friends,
and the priest and his hearers coming by the
house, he went with Friends into the yard and
again addressed them. They scoffed and called
them Quakers ; but such was the power ac-
companying his preaching, that the priest
trembled, and one of the people called out,
" Look how the priest trembles and shakes ;
he is turned a Quaker also." In consequence
of the abuse committed that day, two or three
justices convened at the town to examine into
the matter, and though the person who shed
his blood was liable to a severe penalty,
George Fox forgave him and would not ap-
pear against him.

In reading these accounts of the sufferings
of our worthy predecessors, it is well for us
to contrast the hardness of their lot with the
ease and liberty we now enjoy ; and to re-
member that our exemption from suffering,
was purchased for us by their faithfulness and
constancy in bearing testimony to the truth.
The principles we profess, are those in sup-
port of which they underwent these grievous
hardships and imprisonments, and it becomes
us to watch with diligence our steps through
life, that we may not in any of our conduct
violate those principles, or bring a shade over
the high profession we are making.

It does not appear that George Fox was im-
prisoned during the year 1652, although he
was constantly engaged in preaching the Gos-
pel, and exposing the errors and wickedness
of the high professors of religion, which pro-
duced great excitement against him, particu-
larly among the priests. They procured a
warrant for apprehending him, and presented
an indictment for blasphemy to the court of
sessions held at Lancaster, where about forty
of them appeared as witnesses against him.
Hearing of this, he thought it best to appear
openly in the court, and face his persecutors,
without waiting to be taken up by the officers.
He accordingly went to the sessions, and when
the witnesses came to be examined, they con-
tradicted each other so as to destroy the force
of their evidence. The indictment was quash-
ed, and George discharged.

He bore testimony in open court that " the
Holy Scriptures were given forth by the Spirit
of God," which all people must come to in
themselves in order to experience fellowship
with the Father and the Son, and with one an-
other, and without which Spirit they could not
savingly understand the Scriptures. This ex-



asperated the priests, and one of them said
that the Spirit and the letter were inseparable.
To which George rephed, " Then every one
that hath the letter, hath the Spirit, and they
might buy the Spirit with the letter of the
Scriptures." This discovery of the error of
his opponents, induced Judge Fell and Colonel
West to reprove them, observing " that ac-
cording to their position, they might carry
the Spirit in their pockets, as they did the
Scriptures." The priest then endeavoured to
equivocate and give a different meaning to his
words, but the court refused to admit any
other than the plain sense of his own expres-
sions. They were thus confounded, and it
was proved by witnesses present in the meet-
ing, that no such language had been used by
George Fox as they alleged against him in the
charge of blasphemy exhibited before the
court, and many pious persons praised God
that day for the victory which Truth obtained.

At Grayrigg a priest came to a meeting and
asserted that " the Scriptures were the Word
of God." George Fox told him " they were
the words of God, but not Christ, the Word,"
and bade him prove his assertion by Scrip-
ture. In this he failed, but sent George a
challenge to meet him at Kendal. George
sent him word he need not go so far as Ken-
dal, he would meet him in his own parish. At
the second interview the priest made the same
assertion. To which it was answered, " They
were the words of God, but not God the
Word." He then attempted to bring proof
from the Scriptures, but George keeping him
close to his offer, and requiring chapter and
verse, he again failed and ran himself into
many errors. George closed the dispute by
repeating his belief — that he owned what the
Scriptures said of themselves — namely, " that
they were the words of God, but Christ was
the Word."

The number of those convinced of the doc-
trines of Friends, and who joined in religious
fellowship with George Fox, was now greatly
increased. Meetings were settled in many
places, and several eminent ministers had
come forth, among whom were Richard Farns-
worth, William Dewsbury, Thomas Aldam,
and Edward Burrough. These were industri-
ously engaged in promoting the cause of reli-
gion, and travelled almost constantly, holding
large meetings v/ith the people.

At Carlisle, in 1653, George Fox preached
at the Market Cross and in the place of wor-
ship, and the doctrines he delivered not being
agreeable to some of the people, they stirred
up the populace against him, threatening him
with beating and stoning. The tumult, how-
ever, was appeased by the soldiery, who per-
ceived the injury intended to be done and res-

cued him. On the following day the magis-
trates sent a warrant to arrest him : George
hearing they had granted it, did not v/ait for
the constable to serve it, but went himself before
the magistrates. He was committed to prison,
" as a blasphemer, an heretic, and a seducer,"
and cruelly used, being thrust into a common
hole, among the vilest felons and disorderly per-
sons, without bed, fire or other accommodation.

While lying in this comfortless situation, he
was visited by James Parnell, then a lad of
only sixteen years of age, whose mind the
Lord had touched by his Holy Spirit, and
raised strong desires after the knowledge of his
blessed truth. He was convinced, and soon
became an able minister of the Gospel ; and
after labouring assiduously in the work, dur-
ing the short period allotted him, died of cruel
usage in Colchester Castle, in 1655, being
about nineteen years of age.

He remained in prison until the assizes, and
the judges finding that the high charges on
which he was committed could not be sustain-
ed, resolved not to bring him to trial. It was
reported abroad that he was to suffer death,
and the parliament ordered a letter of inquiry
to be sent to the sheriffs and magistrates con-
cerning him. Through the exertions of justice
Pearson, who visited the prisoner, in company
with the governor, George's situation was
made more comfortable. The governor was
so shocked with the filthiness of the place
when he first entered it, that he exclaimed
against the barbarity of the magistrates for
committing him, and required security of the
jailer for his good behaviour; and the under-
jailer, who had been exceedingly cruel, was
imprisoned in the same dungeon. The magis-
trates fearing the interference of parliament,
soon after released George Fox, as the easiest
method of concealing their illegal conduct.*

* These prosecutions on the charges of blas-
phemy, heresy, &c., were commenced under an
act passed by Parliament in 1650, designed to
reach the Ranters, a visionary sect which arose
during the civil and religious commotions of the
times, and published the most wild and blas-
phemous opinions. They ascribed the attributes
of Deity to men — contended that no act, however
wicked, was sinful in the saints — that the grossest
violations of the moral law were not, in them-
selves, sinful ; and that there was no real differ-
ence between moral good and evil. Acting on
these principles, they committed many excesses
and gave occasion to the irreligious to speak ill of
the profession of Christianity. The enemies of
Friends, failing in their other accusations, endea-
voured to produce the impression that their princi-
ples were similar to those of tlie Ranters, and the
Parliament having repealed tlie other penal sta-
tutes for religion, they prosecuted them on the
charge of blasphemy. But in every instance the
charges fell to the ground. So far from agreeing



George Fox being discharged, resumed his
travels, going through Westmoreland, Cum-
berland, Northumberland, &c. " The ever-
lasting Gospel and word of life," says he,
" flourished, and thousands were turned to the
Lord Jesus Christ and to his teaching." The
success of his labours provoked the envious
opposers, who were vexed to see the principles
of Friends spreading ; and they not only in-
vented and circulated many slanders against
them, but prophesied the downfall of the So-
ciety. Their predictions, however, failed, and
notwithstanding the sufferings Friends under-
went, they flourished in their outward affairs.
Their conscientious adherence to strict inte-
grity, gained them a reputation among the peo-
ple, which was surpassed by none. On this
subject, George remarks, " The priests and
professors had said long before, that we should
be destroyed within a month ; after that, they
prolonged the time to half a year ; but that
time being long expired, and we mightily in-
creased in number, they now gave out that
' we should eat out one another.' For, after
meetings, many tender people, having a great
Avay to go, tarried at Friends' houses by the
way, and sometimes more than there were
beds to lodge in, so that some have lain on the
haymows. Hereupon a fear possessed the pro-
fessors and world's people. They were afraid
that Avhen we had eaten one another out, we
should all come to be maintained by the pa-
rishes and be chargeable to them. But after
awhile they saw that the Lord blessed and in-
creased Friends, as he did Abraham, both in
the field and in the basket, and that all things
prospered with them. Then they saw the
falsehood of all their prophecies against us,
and that it was in vain to curse where God
had blessed."

" At the first convincement, as Friends could
not put off their hats to people, nor say you to
a single person, nor bow, nor use flattering
words in salutations, nor go into the fashions
and customs of the world, many Friends who
were tradesmen lost their customers ; for the
people were shy of them and would not trade
with them, so that for a time th^y could hardly
get money enough to buy bread. But after-
ward when they came to have experience of
Friends' honesty and faithfulness, and found
their yea to be yea indeed, and their nay nay ;
that they kept to their word in dealing and
would not deceive any, but that if a child was
sent to their shops they were as well served as
though they came themselves ; the lives and
conversation of Friends did preach loudly,
and reached the divine Witness in the hearts

with the monstrous doctrines of that sect, Triends
openly protested against them, and Edward Bur-
rough and others exposed their errors, in writing.

of the people. Then things were altered, so
that the inquiry was, ' Where was a draper,
or tailor, or shopkeeper, that was a Quaker,'
insomuch that Friends had more business than
many of their neighbours, and if there was
any trading, they had a great part of it. Then
the envious professors altered their note, and
began to cry out, ' If we let these Quakers
alone, they will take the trade of the nation
out of our hands.' This hath been the Lord's
doings for his people, and my desire is that all
who profess his holy truth may be kept sensi-
ble hereof, that all may be preserved in and
by the power of his Spirit, faithful to God and
faithful to man ; first to God, in obeying Him
in all things, and then in doing unto all men
that which is just and righteous in all things
that they have to do with them."

A change had taken place in the govern-
ment of England, King Charles being deposed
and Oliver Cromwell declared Protector of the
Commonwealth. The disturbances and diffi-
culties attendant on a state of civil warfare,
reached the peaceable Society of Friends,
though they meddled not with political affairs.
In 1654, George Fox was arrested at Whet-
stone, by a company of troopers, and carried
before Colonel Hacker, who, after a partial
examination, sent him to Cromwell at London.
The colonel was very desirous to extort from
him a promise that he would hold no moi'e
meetings, pretending that they were dangerous
to the safety of the government. But George
was not free to come under such an engage-
ment, and when he found the colonel deter-
mined on sending him to the protector, he
knelt down by him and besought the Lord to
forgive him. He was brought before Crom-
well at Whitehall, and they had much con-
versation on the subject of religion. As George
was turning to leave him, Oliver caught him
by the hand, saying, " Come again to my
house — for if thou and I were together but an
hour of a day, we should be nearer one to the
other. I wish thee no more ill than I do to
my own soul." He was discharged from his
confinement, and by order of the protector,
taken to the dinner hall and invited to dine
with the company ; but he declined accepting
the offer, sending word to him, that he would
" not eat of his bread nor drink his drink."
When the protector heard this, he said, " Now
I see there is a people risen that I can not win
either with gifts, honours, offices or places ;
but all other sects and people I can." It was
told him again, " That we had forsaken our
own, and were not likely to look for such
things from him."

In the years 1654 and 1655, George Fox
continued travelling diligently in England,
holding meetings both among his friends and



the people generally ; and though occasionally
arrested or otherwise misused, yet the vio-
lence of persecution was in some degree miti-
gated. In describing the character of his gos-
pel labours, he says, " I directed the people to
the light of Christ, by which they might see
their sins, and their Saviour Christ Jesus, the
way to God, their Mediator to make peace be-
tween God and them, their Shepherd to feed
them, and their Prophet to teach them. I di-
rected them to the Spirit of God, in them-
selves, by which they might know the Scrip-
tures, and be led into all truth ; and by the
Spirit might know God, and in it have unity
one with another."

Ignorance and superstition gave credence
to many foolish stories respecting him, invent-
ed by those who wished to bring into disrepute
the doctrines which he promulgated, because
of their acceptance by so large a number of
pious, respectable persons, in various parts of
the nation. For the same reason, others were
disposed to criminate him, could they have
found any semblance of proof that he was
guilty of the offences alleged against him.
About eleven o'clock one night, Richard Hub-
berthorne and he were roused from their beds
by a constable, with a hue and cry after two
men, a house having been broken into, near a
town where George Fox had preached to the
inhabitants as he rode through it. They aver-
red that they were honest men and abhorred
such acts. The constable, however, carried
them in the morning before a justice ; but be-
ing able to prove by competent witnesses that
they lodged that night and the succeeding
night at the house of a Captain Lawrence,
who became acquainted with George Fox when

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 8 of 105)