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Lord was his portion, and that he was freely given up to die, which was gain to him *.
In 1681 died, at Stafford, where he had resided several years, and left a good report among the inhabitants of the town, Thomas Taylor, aged sixty-five years, an ancient and faithful minister of this society. He was born at or near Shipton in Yorkshire, about the year 1616, and received a liberal education at the university of Oxford. He was first a lecturer in this county, and then obtained a living in Westmoreland, which he held till the year 1652, when he voluntarily relinquished it. His audience was principally composed of Puritans, among whom he ranked, for he declined the use of ceremonies, and would neither baptize children at the font, nor sign them with the sign of the cross. On having an interview with George Fox, at Swarthmore, he embraced his doctrine, and joined him as a companion in his travels and ministerial labours. He resigned his living on a conviction of the unlawfulness of preaching for hire. He travelled through many parts of England, disseminating the doctrine of the Quakers, which he maintained at Oxford against the learned Dr. Owen, at that time vice-chancellor of the university, with great advantage in the opinion of the academics. But his travels were interrupted by a succession of imprisonments, one of which lasted for ten years, till Charles II. issued his letters patent for the general discharge of the Quakers from prison, in 1672. Supported by consciousness of a good cause, and patient acquiescence in the divine disposals, he held his integrity to the last+.
In 1684 died William Bennet, of Woodbridge in Suffolk, a man of a religious turn of mind from his infancy, which, as he grew up, led him to associate with the strictest professors. His first connexions were among the Independents; he then joined the Quakers, and continued a steady, serviceable, and honourable member of their society till his death. He travelled in the exercise of his ministry, edifying his friends and making converts, through many parts of England, adorning his character by the innocence and integrity of his life, so as to gain universal esteem, and to extort from his adversaries an acknowledgment of his personal merit. Yet his sufferings were remarkable; he appears to have spent, at least in the latter part of his life, nearly as much if not more time in prison, than in the enjoyment of his liberty; till growing weaker and weaker, by close and continued confinement, he fell a sacrifice to the sentence of partial magistrates, and the forced construction of unequal laws.
This year died also, in Carlisle jail, Thomas Stordy, descended from a family of repute in Cumberland, and born to the inheritance of a handsome estate. About middle age he became seriously thoughtful in the pursuit of pure religion. He first joined the Independents, among whom his talents, in exhortations and reli+ Ibid. p. 554-557.
Gough, vol. 2. p. 549–553.
gious exercises, were highly esteemed. After some time he left them, and connected himself with the Quakers; in this society he spent the remainder of his life, respected in his neighbourhood as a man of circumspect, sober, and temperate demeanour, upright in his dealings, obliging in his disposition, hospitable in his house, and liberally charitable to the poor around him. But this honest, repectable citizen was harassed by prosecution upon prosecution, and penalty upon penalty; he was detained a close prisoner at Carlisle, under a premunire, till released by the king's declaration in 1672. He was fined for a meeting, when he was under restraint several miles from it. On the statute of the 23d of Elizabeth he was cast into jail, and confined there several years, till his death. Not long before his decease, being visited by some of his friends, he encouraged them to faithfulness in these words: "If you continue faithful unto the Lord whilst you live in this world, he will reward you, as he now rewards me, with his sweet peace. He was so confident in his opinion concerning tithes, that he not only refused to pay, but to receive them; for inheriting from his ancestors an impropriation of 107. per annum, he quitted all claim to it for himself, his heirs and assigns for ever, and by a legal instrument released the owners of the lands from whence the tithes accrued *.
Another eminent minister and member of this society, who finished a useful life this year, was William Gibson of London. He was born at Caton in Lancashire in 1629, and in the civil wars enlisted as a soldier. Being in the garrison at Carlisle, he went to a Quakers' meeting, with three of his comrades, to insult and abuse the preacher; arriving at the place before his companions, after the minister had begun, he was so impressed and affected, that, instead of executing his purpose, he stepped up near to the preacher to defend him from insult, if it should be offered. From that time he frequented the meetings of the society, soon quitted his military employment, and after three years became a preacher. In 1662 he married, and settled near Warrington, and his ministry, while resident in that country, was very successful; and on his removal, he left a good report, and impressions of affectionate respect to his memory. He afterward fixed in London, where his service was conspicuous against hypocrisy, formality, and libertinism, and his circumspect conversation was a credit to his ministry. He suffered persecution in the loss of substance by various distraints, in divers imprisonments, and in personal abuses. In Shropshire, the jailer would not permit his food to be taken to him, but obliged him to draw it up by a rope, and also threw him down a pair of stone stairs, whereby his body was greatly bruised, and beat him to that degree that he was ill near six months. He was engaged in some controversies concerning tithes; was the author of several trea
* Gough, vol. 2. p. 34-37.
tises serviceable at the time, and employed a part of his time in his imprisonments in writing epistles to his friends for their edification in righteousness. He died, recommending union, and exhorting to faithfulness and confidence in the Lord, at the age of fifty-five, and his funeral was attended to Bunhill-fields by many hundreds of friends and others *.
While the society derived honour, at this period, from the virtues of character, and fortitude under sufferings, of distinguished members, it was greatly indebted to the able writings of Penn and Barclay. The former, the year before the king's declaration, 1671, employed the time of his confinement in prison, in writing "The great cause of Liberty of Conscience briefly debated and defended;" and several other pieces. In 1675, on account of the divisions and animosities prevailing in the nation, he published a treatise, entitled, "England's Present Interest considered;" to shew the consistency of a general liberty of conscience with the peace of the kingdom; and the remedies which he proposes to be adopted for allaying the heat of contrary interests were "an inviolable and impartial maintenance of English rights; our superiors governing themselves upon a balance, as near as may be, towards the several religious interests; and a sincere promotion of general and practical religion." Solid reasoning and a multitude of authorities are employed to support these propositions, which form the ground-work of the treatise: "a work (says Gough), wherein the liberal charity of real Christianity, and the candid spirit of genuine patriotism, are eminently conspicuous." The preface, addressed to the higher powers, exhibits a pathetic representation of the severities of the times; when "to see the imprisoned was crime enough for a jail; to visit the sick, to make a conventicle: when whole barns of corn were seized, thrashed, and carried away; parents left without their children; children without their parents; and both without subsistence. But that which aggravates the cruelty (he adds) is, the widow's mite hath not escaped their hands; they have made her cow the forfeiture of her conscience, not leaving her a bed to lie on, nor a blanket to cover her; and what is yet more barbarous, and helps to make up this tragedy, the poor orphan's milk, boiling over the fire, hath been flung to the dogs, and the skillet made part of the prize; so that had not nature in neighbours been stronger than cruelty in such informers, to open her bowels for their relief and subsistence, they must have utterly perished." In the same year in which this piece appeared, Penn likewise wrote a treatise on oaths, to show the reason for not swearing at all †.
A work of extensive and permanent celebrity came this year from the pen of Robert Barclay, entitled, "An Apology for the true Christian Divinity, being an explanation and vindication of
the principles and doctrines of the people called Quakers." It was prefaced with an address to king Charles II. remarkable for its plain dealing and honest simplicity, and as important, curious, and extraordinary, as any part of the work. It has been admired both by our own countrymen and strangers. The work itself has been universally allowed to surpass every thing of its kind, and to set the principles of the Quakers in the fairest light possible. The author sent two copies of it to each of the public ministers, then at the famous congress of Nimeguen, where it was received with all imaginable favour and respect, and the knowledge, charity, and disinterested probity, of its author justly applauded. It was printed in Latin at Amsterdam 1676, and was quickly translated into High Dutch, Low Dutch, French, and Spanish. As it attracted great notice, so it drew out various answers, abroad and at home; some from the pens of men who had before gained a considerable reputation in the learned world. These replies contributed to spread and advance the fame of Barclay's work; and it is remarkable, that while these have been little regarded and sunk into oblivion, this treatise maintains its celebrity. Though it had not the desired effect of stopping the persecution against the people in whose cause it was written, "yet it answered (as it is observed) a more important end, by shewing, that the pretences upon which they were persecuted, were false and ill-grounded; and that those who on one side represented them as concealed Papists, and such as on the other hand denied their being Christians, were equally in the wrong, and equally misled by their prejudices." The work did, in this view, great service to those of the author's persuasion; while Quakerism, which before had been looked on as a heap of extravagances and visions, assumed in this treatise a systematic form, was reduced to fixed principles, and recommended itself to the judicious and enlightened mind. "It was an essay (says Gough) to strip Quakerism of the disguise in which enmity or ignorance had dressed it up, and to represent it to the world in its genuine shape and complexion. A work which, with unprejudiced readers, answered the end of its publication, and gained the author the approbation of the ingenuous in general*. It is some proof of the high estimation in which it hath been held, that Mr. Baskerville printed a very elegant edition of it. A Scots poet, writing of the two famous Barclays, William and John, hath concluded with these verses upon Robert:
"But, lo a third appears, with serious air;
His prince's darling, and his country's care.
Gough, vol. 2. p. 401-406. Biographia Britan. vol. 2. second edit. art. Barclay. Dictionnaire des Hérésies, vol. 2. p. 460. Mosheim, however, has not treated this work with candour or justice, but endeavours to depreciate it, and asperses the author, charging him with duplicity, and with giving a fallacious account of the principles of this society. By which he has exposed himself to the just animadversions of the historian of this society. Mosheim's Eccles. History, vol. 5. p. 36, note (b), second edit. and Gough, ut supra.
See his religion, which so late before
In 1676 Barclay published a work entitled, "The Anarchy of the Ranters and other Libertines, the hierarchy of the Romanists and other pretended churches, equally refused and refuted.” This is pronounced to be a learned and excellent treatise, containing as much sound reasoning as any book of its size in ours, or perhaps in any modern language. The design of it was to vindicate the discipline established among the Quakers, against those who accused them of confusion and disorder on one hand, or calumniated them with tyranny and imposition on the other. The causes and consequences of superstition on one hand, and of fanaticism on the other, we are told, are laid open in this very curious and instructive work, with much solidity and perspicuityf. It drew upon its author, at the time of its appearance, much reproach and invective from certain separatists, who had risen up several years.
The leaders of these separatists were, John Wilkinson and John Story, two ministers in the north, who took disgust at the discipline of the society, as an imposition on gospel liberty, and setting up some men in the church to usurp authority over their brethren: "pleading that nothing ought to be given forth in the church of Christ but by way of advice or recommendation; and that every man ought to be left at his liberty to act according to the light of his own conscience, without censure being accountable to any man, but to God, the sole proper judge of conscience. They particularly objected to women's meetings, as usurping authority in the church, contrary to the apostle Paul's prohibition. They gained over adherents from the weaker and looser members of the society; and caused a rent and division in the quarterly meeting of Westmoreland, to which they belonged. After several publications on this occasion, pro and con, especially by William Rogers, a merchant at Bristol, in favour of the separatists, and in reply by Thomas Elwood; and after the matter had been referred to different meetings, and their objections been heard, they found themselves too loosely compacted to adhere long together; some, judging their separation to be causeless, re-united themselves to the body of the society, and the rest soon fell to pieces and dwindled away‡.
When James II. came to the throne, the Quakers drew up a petition, as we have seen, stating their grievous sufferings by no less than ten penal laws; but it is not certain whether they had an opportunity of presenting it; for their proceedings were interrupted by the landing of the duke of Monmouth, which for a time engaged all the attention of the court and the nation. But in March 1685-6, they made an application to the throne, solicit
Biographia Brit. vol. 2. p. 602, of the second edit.
+ Ibid. p. 592, 593. Gough, vol. 3. p. 15. Ibid. p. 9—24.