ePub 版

being taken, at the yearly meeting, of sufferings by confiscation to two-thirds of the estates of those who had been prosecuted on the 23d of Elizabeth, a specification of this grievance was drawn up and laid before the parliament then sitting, with a petition for relief, but without effect *. Towards the close of this year George Fox, having returned from Holland, and visited the meetings of his friends in various parts of England, on coming to London found them engaged in fresh solicitations for relief from prosecutions on the laws made against Popish recusants only; and he joined them in these applications; but a sudden prorogation of parliament put a stop to their proceedings. When it met again, he, William Penn, George Whitehead, and others, renewed their suit, and they conceived some hopes of relief, as many of the members, convinced that they suffered grievously and unjustly, and were much misrepresented by their adversaries, manifested a tender and compassionate regard towards them. But the attention of parliament was soon called off by the discovery of what was called the Popish plot; an advantage was taken of the alarm this occasioned, to increase the rigorous persecution of a people of opposite principles and conduct, under the pretext of the necessity, at this season of danger, to exert additional vigilance in guarding against seditious assemblies; and some members, whose residence, occupation, and manner of life, were well known, were imprisoned under a pretended suspicion of being Papists or concealed Jesuits †. Penn had several years before this been happily successful in solicitations for friends suffering by heavy fines and imprisonments in Ireland: or at a halfyearly meeting held at his house in 1670, an account of their sufferings was drawn up in an address to the lord-lieutenant, which was presented to him, and an order of council obtained for the release of those who were imprisoned. In Scotland the persecuted members of this society met with an advocate in Barclay, and owed some relief to his powerful exertions. In 1676, the magistrates of Aberdeen made a handle of the declaration issued by the council at Edinburgh, reinforcing former acts of parliament against conventicles, to oppress the Quakers, many of whom were seized, committed to prison, detained near three months without being called before the commissioners, and, notwithstanding the able defence they set up, were fined in different sums, but in general to a heavy amount, and remanded to prison till the fines were paid. Robert Barclay being then in London, gained admittance to the king, delivered to him a narrative of the severe and irregular proceedings of the magistrates, and interceded with him to recommend their case to the favourable notice of the council of Scotland. On this the king ordered the earl of Lauderdale to recommend the narrative to their consideration. The matter was referred to the

* Gough, vol. 2. p. 425.

+ Ibid. p. 433-435.

+ Ibid. p. 479.

former commissioners in conjunction with three others: but their liberty was not obtained, till the fines were discharged by exorbitant and oppressive distraints *! When, in 1680, the Quakers were maliciously represented as concerned in the Popish plot, George Fox published a declaration, addressed to the parliament, in defence of himself and friends, to remove such suspicions, professing it to be their "principle and testimony to deny and renounce all plots and plotters against the king or any of his subjects; that in tenderness of conscience they could not swear or fight, but that they would use every endeavour in their power to save the king and his subjects, by discovering all plots and plotters that should come to their knowledge: and praying not to be put on doing those things, which they had suffered so much and so long for not doing +." When in the same year a bill was brought into parliament to exempt his majesty's Protestant subjects, dissenting from the church of England, from the penalties of the act of the 35th of Elizabeth, the Quakers, with a laudable attention to their own ease, and from a generous sympathy with their friends under persecution, improved the favourable opportunity for promoting liberty of conscience. Divers of them

attended the committee, when the bill was committed, early and late, in order to solicit the insertion of such clauses as might give ease to the tender consciences of their friends, whose religious dissent was scrupulous in some matters beyond other dissenters; and they obtained a clause to be inserted for accepting a declaration of fidelity instead of the oath of allegiance. Although this design failed, by the bill being lost, yet a foundation was laid for reviving and completing it in the succeeding reign of king William III. But in the following year an event took place, which must be considered as giving a turn to the fortunes of this society, and advancing them, in the event, to a peculiar degree of respectability and influence. Sir William Penn had, at the time of his death, a considerable debt due to him from the crown, either for arrears or advances made to government in the sundry expeditions in which he was engaged, while he was employed as an admiral, both under Oliver Cromwell and king Charles II. To discharge this debt the king, by letters patent bearing date the 4th of March 1680-1, granted to his son William Penn, and his heirs, that province lying on the west of the river of Delaware, in North America, formerly belonging to the Dutch, and then called the New Netherlands. This grant, by which Penn and his heirs were made governors and absolute proprietors of that tract of land, was owing to the influence of the duke of York, with whom admiral Penn was a peculiar favourite. In the summer of 1682, Penn took possession of this province, and he formed a government in it on the most liberal principles, with respect to the rights of conscience. The leading article of his

*Gough, vol. 2. p. 460-470.

+ Ibid. p. 506.

new constitution was this: "That all persons living in this province, who confess and acknowledge the one almighty and eternal God, to be the creator, upholder, and ruler, of the world, and that hold themselves obliged in conscience to live peaceably and justly in civil society, shall in nowise be molested or prejudiced for their religious persuasion or practice in matters of faith and worship; nor shall they be compelled at any time to frequent or maintain any religious worship, place, or ministry, whatsoever.” This settlement, in the first instance, afforded an asylum to many of his friends, who were glad to remove to a government formed on principles of humanity, and with a religious regard to justice and equity. When the system of legislation was matured and completed, it excited the admiration of the universe. This oppressed society, in a few years, had the happiness and honour of seeing its tenets fixed on the other side of the Atlantic in security and peace, and itself extending through a wide territory, which enlarged the domains of their native country, and made a principal figure in the new world. The wisdom and virtues of the founder of this government, the excellent principles on which it was formed, and the prosperity to which it rose, reflected credit on the Quakers, and gave them weight in the political scale. Civil society has felt its obligations to them. And from this time their religious profession became more and more secure and respectable. The prognostications of William Penn, it hath been observed, have been remarkably verified. "If friends here keep to God, and in the justice, mercy, equity, and fear, of the Lord, their enemies will be their footstool."

During the preceding period, from the declaration of indulgence to the end of Charles II.'s reign, this society lost several active and eminent members by death.

Among these was William Baily, who died 1675, at sea, in his voyage from the West Indies. He had preached among the Baptists at Pool in Dorsetshire, when convinced by the ministry of George Fox, he embraced the principles of the Quakers in 1655, among whom he became a bold and zealous preacher, not in England only, but while he followed a seafaring life in distant countries, being concerned to propagate righteousness, whenever an opportunity presented itself, and he displayed a like fortitude in suffering for his testimony; for he was frequently imprisoned in different jails, both during the time of the commonwealth and after the Restoration. He also suffered much corporal abuse by blows, by being thrown down and dragged along the ground by the hair of his head, trampled upon by a corpulent man, and his mouth and jaws attempted to be rent asunder. On a voyage from Barbadoes he was visited with a disease, which terminated his life and sufferings. Among other sensible observations, expressive of the serenity of his mind, and of devout confidence and hope, address

* Gough, vol. 2. p. 515; and vol. 3. p. 131-147.

ing himself to the master of the vessel, he said, "Shall I lay down my head in peace upon the waters? Well, God is the God of the whole universe; and though my body sink, I shall live atop of the waters." He afterward added, "the creating word of the Lord endures for ever +."

In 1679, died, at Goodnestone-court in Kent, in the sixtythird year of his age, Isaac Pennington, of Chalfont in Buckinghamshire, an honourable, useful, and virtuous member of this society. He was heir to a fair inheritance, being the eldest son of alderman Pennington of London, a noted member of the longparliament, and nominated, though he never sat, one of the king's judges. His education had all the advantages the schools and universities of his own country could afford him; his rank in life threw him into the company of some of the most learned and considerable men of the age; his understanding was by nature good; his judgment and apprehension quick; his disposition was mild and affable; and his conversation cheerful, but guarded; equally divested of moroseness and levity. From his childhood he was religiously inclined, and conversant with the Scriptures; the wonder of his acquaintance, from his awful frame of mind and retired life. When he first met with the writings of the Quakers, he threw them aside with disdain; and, when he fell into conversation with some of them, though they engaged his affectionate regard, yet he could not but view them in a contemptuous light, as a poor and weak generation. But, afterwards being invited to a meeting in Bedfordshire, where George Fox preached, his prejudices gave way; he joined the society, against all the influence of connexions and worldly prospects, and became a very eminent and serviceable member in it. He diligently visited and administered to the afflicted in body and mind. He opened his heart and house to the reception of friends. His preaching was very successful in proselyting many, and conforming many. He

* Gough's History of the Quakers, vol. 2. p. 407-411.

+ This William Baily married Mary Fisher, a woman of singular ardour and resolution in the propagation of her religious principles; for, besides going to Boston in America, and meeting severe sufferings there, she engaged, after her return to England, in a more arduous undertaking. This was to pay a visit to sultan Mahomet IV. encamped with his army near Adrianople. She proceeded on her way as far as Smyrna, when the English consul stopped her, and sent her back to Venice. Not disheartened from the prosecution of her design, she made her way by land, and escaped any manner of abuse, through a long journey of five or six hundred miles. She went to the camp alone, and obtained an audience of the sultan, who received her with great courtesy, and heard her with much seriousness and gravity, invited her to stay in the country, and offered her a guard to Constantinople. This she declined, but reached that city in safety without the least injury or insult, and afterward arrived in England. The conduct of the Mahometans towards her, as Gough remarks, was a striking contrast to that of the professors of New-England. "We cannot but regret (he properly adds), that the best religion the world was ever blessed with, and in its own purity so far surpassing in excellence, should, on comparison with human infidelity, be so tarnished through the degeneracy of its professors, who, under the name of Christians, in morality, generosity, and humanity, fall far short of those who name not the name of Christ."Gough, vol. 1. p. 423.

[blocks in formation]

was an excellent pattern of piety, virtue, and the strictest morality. He was a most affectionate husband, a careful and tender father, a mild and gentle master, a sincere and faithful friend, compassionate and liberal to the poor; affable to all, ready to do good to all men, and careful to injure none. But neither rank of life, benevolence of disposition, inculpable innocence of demeanour, nor the universal esteem of his character, could secure him from the sufferings attendant upon his religious profession. His imprisonments were many, and some of them long and severe. These he bore with great firmness and serenity, and the sharp and painful distemper, which put an end to his life, gave no shock to his internal peace *.

In the next year, 1680, died, leaving behind him deep impressions of grateful respect and honourable esteem in the hearts of many, Giles Barnadiston, of Clare in Suffolk, aged fifty-six. He was born in 1684, of a respectable and opulent family, and being designed for the pulpit in the establishment, he received a liberal education both in seminaries of literature, and at the university, where he spent six years. But when he was called on to accept an offer of preferment in the church, and to take orders, from a consciousness of wanting the internal purity and spiritual wisdom essential to a minister of the gospel, he resolutely declined the proposal. Though in this instance he was governed by a just and serious view of things, he had not firmness to resist the allurements of pleasure and sensual gratifications. On the breaking out of the civil war, he obtained a colonel's commission in the army; but he soon grew weary of a military life, accompanied with violence and bloodshed, laid down his commission, and retired to Wormingford-lodge in Essex, commenced a stricter life than before, and became thoughtful about the way of salvation. In this state of mind he felt an inclination to acquaint himself with the principles of the Quakers, and in 1661 invited some of them to his house; the consequence of his conversation with George Fox the younger, and George Weatherly, who paid him a visit, was his joining himself with this society; and he willingly took part in the storm of persecution to which this people were exposed, and constantly attended their religious meetings in the hottest time of it. In 1669 he removed to Clare, the place of his nativity, and in the same year he made his appearance in the ministry, in which he acquitted himself with faithfulness, fervency, wisdom, and success. He had but a tender constitution; yet, animated by a devotedness to the glory of God, and by a generous concern to promote the well-being of mankind, he took many journeys, and travelled into Holland, as well as divers parts of England, to make known to others what he judged to be the truth. He died on his return from London to Chelmsford, after a short illness, in which he expressed his resignation, "that the

Gough, vol. 2. 439-447.

« 上一頁繼續 »