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We had foul weather and contrary winds, which caused us to cast anchor often, so that we were till the thirty-first of the third month ere we passed the capes of Virginia into the main sea. But after this we made good speed, and the twenty-eighth of the fourth month cast anchor at king's road, the harbour for Bristol. We had in our passage very high winds and tempestuous weather, which made the sea exceeding rough, the waves rising like mountains, so that the masters and sailors wondered, and said, “They never saw the like before.' But though the wind was strong, it set for the most part with us, so that we sailed before it; and the great God who commands the winds, who is Lord of heaven, earth, and the seas, and whose wonders are seen in the deep, steered our course, and preserved us from many imminent dangers. The same good hand of providence that went with us, and carried us safely over, watched over us in our return, and brought us safely back again. Thanksgivings and praises be to his holy name for ever! many sweet and precious meetings we had on board the ship during this voyage (commonly two a-week,) wherein the blessed presence of the Lord did greatly refresh us, and often break in upon and tender the company. When we came into Bristol harbour, there lay a man of war, and the pressmaster came on board to impress our men. We had a meeting at that time in the ship with the seamen, before he went to shore; and the pressmaster sat down with us, staid the meeting, and was well satisfied with it. After the meeting I spoke to him to leave two of the men he had impressed in our ship, (for he had impressed four,) one of which was a lame man; he said, “At my request he would.” We went on shore that afternoon, and got to Shearhampton. We procured horses, and rode to Bristol that night, where Friends received
us with great joy. In the evening I wrote a letter to my wife, to give her notice of my landing.
“DEAR HEART, This day we came into Bristol, near night, from the sea; glory to the Lord God over all for ever, who was our convoy, and steered our course ! who is the God of the whole earth, of the seas and winds, and made the clouds his chariots, beyond all words, blessed be his name for ever! he is over all in his great power and wisdom, amen. Robert Widders and James Lancaster are with me, and we are well. Glory to the Lord for ever, who hath carried us through many perils, perils by water, and in storms, perils by pirates and robbers, perils in the wilderness, and amongst false professors; praises to him whose glory is over all for ever, amen! therefore, mind the fresh life, and all live to God in it. I intend (if the Lord will,) to stay awhile this way. It may be till the fair. So no more, but my love to all Friends. G. F.
“Bristol, the 28th of the 4th month, 1673.”
Between this and the fair my wife came out of the north to Bristol, and her son-in-law Thomas Lower, with two of her daughters with her. Her other son-in-law John Rouse, W. Penn and his wife, and Gerard Roberts came from London, and many Friends from several parts of the nation to the fair, and glorious powerful meetings we had there, for the Lord's infinite power and life was over all. In the fresh openings whereof I was moved to declare of three estates and three teachers, viz. ‘God was the first teacher of man and woman in paradise; and as long as they kept to and under his teaching, they kept in the image of God, in his likeness, in righteousness and holiness, and in dominion over all that God had made; in the blessed state, in the paradise of God. But when they hearkened to the serpent's false teaching, (who was out of truth.) disobeyed God, and obeyed the serpent, in feeding upon that which God forbade; they lost the image of God, the righteousness and holiness, came under the power of satan, and were turned out of paradise, out of the blessed into the cursed state. Then the promise of God was, “That the seed of the woman should bruise the serpents head,” break his power thatman and woman were under, and destroy his works. So here were three states and three teachers. God was the first teacher in paradise; and whilst man kept under his teaching, he was happy. The serpent was the second teacher; and when man followed his teaching he fell into misery, into the fall from the image of God, righteousness, and holiness, and from the power that he had over all that God had made; and came under the serpent whom he had power over before. Christ Jesus was the third teacher; of whom God saith, “This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased, hear ye him:” and who himself saith, “Learn of me.” This is the true gospel-teacher, who bruises the head of the serpent the false teacher, and the head of all false teachers and false religions, false ways, false worships, and false churches. Christ, who said, “Learn of me,” and of whom the Father said, “Hear ye him,” said, “I am the way to God, I am the truth, I am the life, and the true light.” So as man and woman come to God, and are renewed up into his image, righteousness, and holiness by Christ, thereby they come into the paradise of God, the state which man was in before he fell; and into a higher state than that, to sit down in Christ who never fell. Therefore, the Son of God is to be heard in all things, who is the Saviour and the Redeemer; who hath laid down his life, and bought his sheep with his precious blood. We can challenge all the world. Who hath any thing to say against our way? our Saviour ! our Redeemer? our prophet, whom God hath raised up that we may hear, and whom we must hear in all things? who hath any thing against our shepherd Christ Jesus, who leads and feeds us, and we know his heavenly voice? who hath any thing against our bishop, in whose mouth was never guile found, who doth oversee us in his pasture of life, that we do not go astray out of his fold 1 who hath any thing against our priest, Christ Jesus, made higher than the heavens, who gives us freely, and commands us to give freely? who hath any thing to say against our leader and counsellor, Christ Jesus, who never sinned, but is holy, harmless, and separate from sinners? God hath commanded us to hear him, and he saith, “Learn of me;” and if we should disobey God's and Christ's command, we should be like our father Adam and mother Eve, who disobeyed God's command, and hearkened to the serpent's teaching. Man commands, and would force us to hear the hirelings, who plead for sin and the body of death to the grave; which doctrine savours of the devil's teaching, not of Christ's; but we resolve to hear the Son, as both the Father and he command; and in hearing the Son, we hear the Father also, as the scripture testifies. For the author to the Hebrews says, “God, who at sundry times and in divers manners spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets, hath in these last days spoken unto us by his Son:” mark that, God hath spoken unto us (his apostles, disciples, and church,) by his Son. And whereas, some have objected, “That although Christ did speak both to his disciples and to the Jews in the days of his flesh, yet since his resurrection and ascension he doth not speak now;” the answer is, as God did then speak by his Son in the days of his flesh, so the Son, Christ Jesus, doth now speak by his spirit. Wherefore, John saith in the Revelations, “He that hath an ear, let him hear what the spirit saith to the churches.” Rev. ii. “And Christ is said to speak from heaven.” Heb. xii. 25. “See that ye refuse not him that speaketh ; for if they escaped not who refused him that spake on earth, much more shall not we escape if we turn away from him that speaketh from heaven.” They that resisted Moses' law (who spake on earth,) died for it without mercy, which was a natural death; but they that refuse him that speaks from heaven, neglect and slight their ownsalvation, and so die a spiritual death through unbelief and hardness of heart. Therefore was the exhortation given of old, “To-day, if ye will hear his voice, harden not your hearts, as in the provocation,” &c. Heb. iii. 15, &c. They, who neglect or refuse to hear the voice of Christ now speaking from heaven in this his gospel-day, harden their hearts. Therefore let all mark well these three states and teachers: the God of truth was the first teacher, while man was in paradise and in innocence. The serpent was the second teacher, the false teacher, who by his false teaching came to be the god of the world which lies in wickedness. Christ Jesus, that bruises the serpent's head, is the third teacher, who saith, “Learn of me;” of whom God saith, “This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased, hear ye him;” and of whom the testimony ot the saints of old was, “That God hath in these last days spoken unto us by his Son.” Thus they, that come to be renewed up again into the divine heavenly image in which man was at first made, will know the same God, that was the first teacher of Adam and Eve in paradise, to speak to them now by his Son, who changes not; glory be to his name for ever !’ Many deep and precious things were opened in those meetings by the eternal spirit which searcheth and revealeth the deep things of God. After I had finished my service for the Lord in that city, I departed into Gloucestershire, where we had many large and precious meetings; and the Lord's everlasting power flowed over all. From Gloucestershire I passed into Wiltshire, where also we had many blessed meetings. At Slattenford in Wiltshire we had a very good meeting, though we met with much opposition from some, who had set themselves against women's meetings; which I was moved of the Lord to recommend to Friends, for the benefit of the church of Christ. ‘That faithful women, called to the belief of the truth, made partakers of the same precious faith, and heirs of the same everlasting gospel of life and salvation as the men are, might in like manner come into the possession and practice of the gospelorder, and therein be meet helps unto the men in the restoration, in the service of truth, in the affairs of the church, as they are outwardly in civil or temporal things. That so all the family of God, women as well as men, might know, possess, perform, and discharge their offices and services in the house of God, whereby the poor might be the better taken care of; the younger sort instructed, informed, and taught in the way of God; the loose and disorderly reproved and admonished in the fear of the Lord; the clearness of persons proposing marriage, more closely and strictly enquired into in the wisdom of God; and all the members of the spiritual body the church might watch over and be helpful to each other in love. After these opposers had run into much contention and wrangling, the power of the Lord struck down one of the chief of them, so that his spirit sunk, and he came to be sensible of the evil he had done, in opposing God's heavenly power, confessed his error before Friends and afterwards gave forth a paper of condemnation, wherein he declared, ‘That he did wilfully oppose (although I often warned him to take heed,) until the fire of the Lord did burn within him, and he saw the angel of the Lord with his sword drawn in his hand, ready to cut him off,’ &c. Notwithstanding the opposition was made at the meeting, yet a very good and serviceable meeting it was ; for occasion was thereby administered to answer their objections and cavils, and to open the services of women in and for the church. At this meeting the women's meetings for that county were established in the blessed power of God. After this I went to Marlborough, and had a meeting there, to which some of the magistrates came, and were civil and moderate. Then passing to Bartholomew Maylin's, I had a very precious meeting there. From thence went a little beyond Ore, where we had a blessed meeting, and very large, as we had also soon after upon the border of Hampshire, Then turning into Oxfordshire, we visited Friends there; then went to Reading where we had a large meeting. From thence passing into Buckinghamshire, we had many precious meetings in that county. After which we visited Friends till we came to Kingston upon Thames, where my wife and her daughter Rachel met me.
I made no long stay at Kingston, but went to London, where I found the Baptists and Socinians, with some old apostates, grown very rude, having printed many books against us: so I had a great travail in the Lord's power, before I could get clear of that city. But blessed be the Lord, his power came over them, and all their lying, wicked, scandalous books were answered. I made a short journey into some parts of Essex and Middlesex, visiting Friends at their meetings, and their children at the schools, and returned soon to London. After some service there among Friends, I went to Kingston, and from thence to Stephen Smith's in Surrey, where was a very large meeting, many hundreds of people . attending it. I staid in those parts till I had cleared myself of the service the Lord had given me to do there, and then returned by Kingston to London, whither I felt my spirit drawn; having heard that many Friends were taken before the magistrates, and divers imprisoned, both in London and in other parts of the nation, for opening their shop-windows upon holydays and fast days (as they are called,) and for bearing testimony against all such observation of days. Which Friends could not but do, knowing that the true christians did not observe the Jews' holydays in the apostles' times, neither could we observe the Heathens' and Papists' holydays (so called,) which have been set up amongst those called christians since the apostles' days. For we were redeemed out of days by Christ Jesus, and brought into the day which hath sprung from on high, and are come into him, who is Lord of the Jewish Sabbath, and the substance of the Jews' signs.
After I had staid some time in London, labouring for some relief and ease to Friends in this case, I went with my wife, and her daughter Rachel, to Hendon, in Middlesex, and from thence to William Penn's at Rickmansworth, in Hertfordshire, whither Thomas Lower, who married another of my wife's daughters, came the next day to accompany us in our journey northward. After we had visited Friends thereabouts, we passed to a Friend's house near Aylesbury; and from thence to Bray Dolly's at Adderbury, in Oxfordshire, where, on first-day, we had a large and precious meeting. Truth being well spread, and Friends in those parts much increased in number, two or three new meetings were then set up thereabouts.
Wol. II. 19