Obrazy na stronie


was near of kin to her former husband, brought his action against the Friend who had last married her, endeavouring to dispossess them, and deprive the child of the inheritance, and to possess himself thereof, as next heir to the woman's first husband. To effect this, he endeavoured to prove the child illegitimate, alleging, the marriage was not according to law.' In opening the cause, the plaintiff's counsel used unseemly words concerning Friends, saying, 'they went together like brute beasts,' with other ill expressions. After the counsels on both sides had pleaded, the judge, (viz. judge Archer,) took the matter in hand, and opened it to them, telling them, 'there was a marriage in paradise when Adam took Eve, and Eve took Adam, and that it was the consent of the parties that made a marriage. And for the Quakers, (he said,) he did not know their opinions; but he did not believe they went together as brute beasts, as had been said of them, but as christians; and therefore, he did believe the marriage was lawful, and the child lawful heir.' And the better to satisfy the jury, he brought them a case to this purpose: A man that was weak of body, and kept his bed, had a desire in that condition to marry, and did declare before witnesses, that he did take such a woman to be his wife, and the woman declared that she took that man to be her husband. This marriage was afterwards called in question, and (as the judge said,) all the bishops did conclude it to be a lawful marriage.' Hereupon the jury gave in their verdict for the Friend's child, and against the man that would have deprived it of its inheritance.

About this time the oaths of allegiance and supremacy were tendered to Friends as a snare, because it was known we could not swear, and thereupon many were imprisoned, and divers premunired. Upon that occasion Friends published in print, The grounds and reasons why they refused to swear;' besides which, I was moved to give forth these few lines following, to be given to the magistrates:



THE world saith, "kiss the book;" but the book saith, "kiss the Son, lest he be angry;" and the Son saith, swear not at all;" but keep to yea and nay in all your communications; for whatsoever is more than this cometh of evil. Again, the world saith, "lay your hand on the book;" but the book saith, "handle the word;" and the word saith, "handle not the traditions," nor the inventions, nor the rudiments of the world. And God saith, "this is my beloved Son, hear him;" who is the life, the truth, the light, and the way to God. G. F.'

Now there being very many Friends in prison in the nation, Richard Hubberthorn and I drew up a paper concerning them; and got it delivered to the king, that he might understand how we were dealt with by his officers. It was directed thus:

For the King.

FRIEND, who art the chief ruler of these dominions, here is a list of some of the sufferings of the people of God, in scorn called Quakers, that have suffered under the changeable powers before thee, by whom there have been imprisoned, and under whom there have suffered for good conscience sake, and for bearing testimony to the truth, as it is in Jesus, "three thousand one hundred and seventy-three persons;" and there lie yet in prison in the name of the commonwealth, "seventy-three persons," that we know of. And there have died in prison, in the time of the com.monwealth, and of Oliver and Richard, the protectors, through cruel and hard imprisonments, upon nasty straw and in dungeons, "thirty-two persons." There have been also imprisoned in thy name, since thy arrival, by such as thought to ingratiate themselves thereby with thee, "three thousand sixty and eight persons." Besides this, our meetings are daily broken up by men with clubs and arms, (though we meet peaceably, according to the practice of God's people in the primitive times,) and our friends are thrown into waters, and trod upon till the very blood gusheth out of them; the number of which abuses can hardly be uttered. Now this we would have of thee, to set them at liberty that lie in prison in the names of the commonwealth and of the two protectors, and them that lie in thy own name, for speaking the truth, and for a good conscience sake, who have not lifted up an hand against thee nor any man; and that the meetings of our friends, who meet peaceably together in the fear of God to worship him, may not be broken up by rude people, with their clubs, swords, and staves. One of the greatest things that we have suffered for formerly, was because we could not swear to the protectors and all the changeable governments; and now we are imprisoned because we cannot take the oath of allegiance. Now, if yea be not yea, and nay nay, to thee, and to all men upon the earth, let us suffer as much for breaking of that as others do for breaking an oath. We have suffered these many years both in lives and estates under these changeable governments, because we cannot swear, but obey Christ's doctrine, who commands "we should not swear at all," Matt. v. James v. and this we seal with our lives and estates, and with our yea and nay, according to the doctrine of Christ. Hearken to these things, and so consider them in the wisdom of thy God, that by it such actions may be stopped; thou that hast the government, and mayst do it. We desire that all that are in prison may be set at liberty, and that for the time to come they may not be imprisoned for conscience and for truth's sake, And if thou question the innocency of their sufferings, let them and their accusers be brought before thee, and we shall produce a more particular and full account of their sufferings, if required. G. F. & R. H.'

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

I mentioned before, that in the year 1650, I was kept prisoner six months in the house of correction at Derby, and that the keeper of the prison being a cruel man, and one that had dealt very wickedly by me, was smitten in himself, the plagues and terrors of the Lord falling upon him because thereof: this man, being afterwards convinced of truth, wrote me the following letter.

DEAR FRIEND,-Having such a convenient messenger, I could do no less than give thee an account of my present condition; remembering, that to the first awakening of me to a sense of life, and of the inward principle, God was pleased to make use of thee as an instrument. So that sometimes I am taken with admiration that it should come by such a means as it did; that is to say, that Providence should order thee to be my prisoner, to give me my first real sight of the truth. It makes me many times to think of the gaoler's conversation by the apostles. O, happy George Fox! that first breathed that breath of life within the walls of my habitation! notwithstanding my outward losses are since that time such that I am become nothing in the world, yet I hope I shall find that all these light afflictions, which are but for a moment, will work for me a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory. They have taken all from me; and now, instead of keeping a prison, I am rather waiting when I shall become a prisoner myself. Pray for me, that my faith fail not, but that I may hold out to the death, that I may receive a crown of life. I earnestly desire to hear from thee, and of thy condition, which would very much rejoice me. Not having else at present, but my kind love unto thee, and all christian friends with thee, in haste, I rest thine in Christ Jesus. THOMAS SHARMAN.

'Derby, the 22d of the 4th month, 1662.'

There were two of our friends in prison in the inquisition at Malta, both women; Catharine Evans and Sarah Chevers. I was told that one called the Lord D'Aubeny could procure their liberty; wherefore I went to him and having informed him concerning their imprisonment, desired him to write to the magistrates there for their release. He readily promised me he would; and said, 'if I would come again within a month he would tell me of their discharge.' I went again about that time, and he said, 'he thought his letters had miscarried, because he had received no answer.' But he promised he would write again, and did so: whereupon they were set at liberty.

With this great man I had a great deal of reasoning about religion, and he confessed that 'Christ hath enlightened every man that cometh into the world with his spiritual light; that he had tasted death for every man that the grace of God, which brings salvation, hath appeared to

[ocr errors]


all men; and that it would teach them, and bring their salvation, if they did obey it.' Then I asked him, what would they (the papists,) do with all their relics and images, if they should own and believe in this light, and receive the grace to teach them and bring their salvation? he said, those things were but policies to keep people in subjection.' Very free he was in discourse. I never heard a papist confess so much as he did. Now, though several about the court began to grow loving to Friends, yet the persecution was very hot, and several Friends died in prison. Whereupon I gave forth a little paper concerning the grounds and rise of persecution; which was thus:


ALL the sufferings of the people of God in all ages, were because they could not join to the national religions and worships which men had made and set up, and because they would not forsake God's religion and his worship which he had set up. And you may see through all chronicles and histories, that the priests joined with the powers of the nations; the magistrates, and soothsayers, and fortunetellers, all these joined against the people of God, and did imagine vain things against them in their councils. When the Jews did wickedly, they turned against Moses. When the Jewish kings transgressed the law of God, they persecuted the prophets; as may be seen in the prophets' writings. And when Christ, the substance, came, then the Jews persecuted Christ, his apostles, and disciples. And when the Jews had not power enough of themselves to persecute answerable to their wills, then they got the heathen Gentiles to help them against Christ, and against his apostles and his disciples, who were in the spirit and power of Christ. G. F.'

After I had made some stay in London, and had cleared myself of what lay upon me there, I went into the country, having with me Alexander Parker and John Stubbs, who was lately come back from Alexandria, in Egypt, as was mentioned before. We travelled through the country, visiting Friends' meetings till we came to Bristol. There we understood, that the officers were likely to come and break up the meeting; yet on first-day we went to the meeting at Broad-mead, and Alexander Parker standing up first, while he was speaking, the officers came and took him away. After he was gone, I stood up in the eternal power of God, and declared the everlasting truth of the Lord God; and the heavenly power came over all, and the meeting was quiet the rest of the time, and broke up peaceably. I tarried till first-day following, visiting Friends, and being visited by Friends. On first-day morning, several Friends came to Edward Pyot's (where I lay the night before) and used endeavours to persuade me not to go to the meeting that day; for the magistrates, they said, had threatened to take me, and had raised the train-bands. I wished them to go their way to the meeting, not tell

ing them what I intended to do; but I told Edward Pyot I intended to go, and he sent his son to show me the way from his house by the fields. As I went I met divers Friends, who did what they could to stop me: 'What,' said one, wilt thou go into the mouth of the beast? · Wilt thou go into the mouth of the dragon?' said another. But I put them by and went on. When I came to the meeting, Margaret Thomas was speaking. When she had done, I stood up. I saw a concern and fear upon Friends for me; but the power of the Lord, in which I declared, soon struck the fear out of them. Life sprang, and an heavenly glorious meeting we had. After I had cleared myself of what was upon me from the Lord to the meeting, I was moved to pray, and after prayer to stand up again, and tell Friends, now they might see there was a God in Israel that could deliver.' A very large full meeting this was, and very hot; but truth was over all, and the life was up which carried through all, and the meeting broke up in peace. The officers and soldiers had been breaking up another meeting, which had taken up their time; so that our meeting was ended before they came. But I understood afterwards they were in a great rage, because they had missed me; for they were heard to say one to another before, I'll warrant we shall have him;' but the Lord prevented them. I went to Joan Hily's, where many Friends came to see me; rejoicing and blessing God for our deliverance. In the evening I had a fine fresh meeting at a Friend's house over the water, where we were much refreshed in the Lord. After this I staid most part of that week in Bristol, and at Edward Pyot's. Edward was brought so low and weak with an ague, that when I first came he was looked upon as a dying man; but it pleased the Lord to raise him up again, so that, before I went away, his ague left him, and he was finely well.


Having been two first-days at the meeting at Broad-mead, and feeling my spirit clear of Bristol, I went next first-day to a meeting in the country not far distant. And after the meeting, some Friends from Bristol told me, the soldiers that day had beset the meeting-house round at Bristol, and then went up saying, they would be sure to have me now ;' but when they found me not there, they were in a great rage, and kept Friends in the meeting-house most part of the day before they would let them go home; and queried of them, 'Which way I was gone, and how they might send after me? for the mayor, (they said,) would fain have spoken with me.' I had a vision of a great mastiff dog, that would have bit me; but I put one hand above his jaws, and the other hand below, and tore his jaws in pieces. So the Lord by his power tore their power to pieces, and made way for me to escape them. Then I passed through the country, visiting Friends in Wiltshire and Berkshire, till I came to London, having great meetings amongst Friends as I went. The

« PoprzedniaDalej »