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whither William Dewsbury came, and staid with me about half a day. I visited Friends in their meetings at Stratford, Lamcoat, and Armscott, (from whence I was sent prisoner to Worcester in the year 1673,) and thence passed into Oxfordshire, visiting Friends, and having meetings at Sibbard, North-Newton, Banbury, Adderbury, &c. Then visiting Friends through Buckinghamshire, at Long-Crendon, Ilmer, Mendle, Weston, Cholsberry, Chesham, &c. I came to Isaac Pennington's, where I staid a few days; then turning into Hertfordshire, visited Friends at Charlewood, Watsord, Hempstead, and Market-street, at which places I had meetings with Friends. From Market-street I went in the morning to Luton, in Bedfordshire, to see John Crook, with whom I spent good part of the day, and went towards evening to Alban's, where I lay that night at an inn. And visiting Friends at South-Mims, Barnet, and Hendon, where I had meetings, I came to London the eighth of the third month. It being the fourth-day, I went to Gracechurch-street meeting, which was peaceable and well; many Friends, not knowing I was come to town, were very joyful to see me there, and the Lord was present with us, refreshing us with his living virtue; blessed be his holy name ! The parliament was sitting when I came to town, and Friends having laid their sufferings before them, were waiting on them for relief against the laws made against popish recusants, which they knew we were not; though some malicious magistrates took advantage to prosecute us in several parts of the nation upon those statutes. Friends being attending that service, when I came, I joined them therein; and some probability there was that something might have been obtained towards Friends' ease and relief in that case, many of the parliament-men being tender and loving towards us, as believing we were much misrepresented by our adversaries. But when I went one morning with George Whitehead, to the parliament-house, to attend them on Friends' behalf, on a sudden they were prorogued, though but for a short time. About two weeks after I came to London the Yearly Meeting began, to which Friends came out of most parts of the nation, and a glorious heavenly meeting we had. Oh the glory, majesty, love, life, wisdom and unity, that was amongst us! the power reigned over all, and many testimonies were borne therein against that ungodly spirit which sought to make rents and divisions amongst the Lord's people; but not one mouth was opened amongst us in its defence, or on its behalf. Good and comfortable accounts also we had, for the most part, from Friends in other countries; of which I find a brief account in a letter which soon after I wrote to my wife, the copy whereof here follows:
‘DEAR HEART, To whom is my love in the everlasting seed of life, that reigns over all. Great meetings here have been and the Lord's power hath been stirring through all, the like hath not been. The Lord hath in his power knit Friends wonderfully together, and his glorious presence did appear among Friends. And now the meetings are over (blessed be the Lord!) in quietness and peace. From Holland I hear that things are well there. Some Friends are gone that way, to be at the Yearly Meeting at Amsterdam. At Embden, Friends that were banished are got into the city again. At Dantzick, Friends are in prison and the magistrates threatened them with harder imprisonment; but the next day, the Lutherans rose, and plucked down or defaced the popish monastery, so they have work enough themselves. The king of Poland did receive my letter, and read it himself; and Friends have since printed it in High Dutch. By letters from the Half-yearly Meeting in Ireland I hear they are all in love there. At Barbadoes Friends are in quietness, and their meetings settled in peace. At Antigua also, and Nevis truth prospers, and Friends have their meetings orderly and well. Likewise in New-England, and other places, things concerning truth and Friends are well; and in those places the men's and women's meetings are settled; blessed be the Lord! so keep in God's power and seed, that is over all, in whom ye all have life and salvation; for the Lord reigns over all, in his glory, and in his kingdom; glory to his name for ever. Amen! So in haste, with my love to you all, and to all Friends.
• G. F. ‘London, the 26th of the 3d month, 1678.”
The letter to the king of Poland, before mentioned, is as followeth:
“To Johannes III king of Poland, &c.
“O KING !—We desire thy prosperity both in this life and that which is to come. And we desire that we may have our christian liberty to serve and worship God under thy dominion: for our principle leads us not to do any thing prejudicial to the king or his people. We are a people that exercise a good conscience towards God through his holy spirit, and in it do serve, worship, and honour him; and towards men in the things that are equal and just, doing to them as we would have then do unto us; looking unto Jesus, who is the author and finisher of our faith; which faith purifies our hearts, and brings us to have access to God; without which we cannot please him: by which faith all the just live, as the scripture declares. That which we desire of thee, O king, is, that we may have the liberty of our consciences to serve and worship God, and to pray unto him in our meetings together in the name of Jesus, as he commands: with a promise that he will be in the midst of them. The king, we hope, cannot but say that this duty and service is due to God and Christ; and we give Caesar his due, and pay our tribute and custom equal with our neighbour, according to our proportion. We never read in all the scriptures of the New Testament, that ever Christ or his disciples did banish or imprison any that were not of their faith or religion, and would not hear them, or gave any such command; but, on the contrary, let the tares and the wheat grow together till the harvest, and the harvest is the end of the world. Then Christ will send his angels to sever the wheat from the tares. He rebuked such as would have had fire from heaven to consume those that would not receive Christ; and told them they did not know what spirit they were of; he came not to destroy men's lives, but to save them. “We desire the king to consider how much persecution has been in Christendom, since the apostles' days, concerning religion. Christ said, “They should go into everlasting punishment that did not visit him in prison;” then what will become of them that imprison him in his members, where he is manifest. None can say the world is ended; therefore how will Christendom answer the dreadful and terrible God at his day of judgment, that have persecuted one another about religion before the end of the world, under a pretence of plucking up tares; which is not their work, but the angels' at the end of the world? Christ commands men to love one another, and to love enemies; and by this they should be known to be his disciples. O that all Christendom had lived in peace and unity, that they might by their moderation have judged both Turks and Jews; and let all have their liberty, that own God and Christ Jesus, and walk as becomes the glorious gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ. Our desires are, that the Lord God of heaven may soften the king's heart to all tender consciences that fear the Lord, and are afraid of disobeying him. “We intreat the king to read some of the noble expressions of several kings, and others, concerning liberty of conscience; and especially Stephanus king of Poland's sayings, viz. “It belongeth not to me to reform the consciences; I have always gladly given that over to God which belongeth to him; and so shall I do now, and also for the future. I will suffer the weeds to grow till the time of harvest, for I know that the number of believers are but small: therefore,” said he, when some were proceeding in persecution, “I am king of the people, not of their consciences.” He also affirmed, that “religion was not to be planted with fire and sword.”—Chron. Liberty of Religion, Part 2. ‘Also a book wrote in French by W. M. anno 1576, hath this sentence, viz. “Those princes that have ruled by gentleness and clemency added to justice, and have exercised moderation and meekness towards their subjects, always prospered and reigned long; but, on the contrary, those princes that have been cruel, unjust, prejudiced, and oppressors of their subjects, have soon fallen, they and their estates, into danger or total ruin.” ‘Veritus saith, “Seeing Christ is a Lamb, whom you profess to be your head and captain, then it behooveth you to be sheep, and to use the same weapons which he made use of: for he will not be a shepherd of wolves and wild beasts, but only of sheep. Wherefore, if you lose the nature of sheep,” said he, “and be changed into wolves and wild beasts, and use fleshly weapons, then will you exclude yourselves out of his calling, and forsake his banner; and then will not he be your captain,” &c. ‘Also we find it asserted by king James, in his speech to the parliament, in the year 1609, “That it is a pure rule in divinity, that God never planted his church with violence of blood.” And further he said, “It was usually the condition of christians to be persecuted, but not to persecute.” ‘King Charles, in his 'Eixa, Barixx; page 61. said in his prayer to God, “Thou seest how much cruelty amongst christians is acted under the colour of religion; as if we could not be christians unless we crucified one another.” “Pag. 2S. “Make them at length seriously to consider, that nothing violent nor injurious can be religious.” ‘Pag. 70. “Nor is it so proper to hew out religious reformation by the sword, as to polish them by fair and equal disputations, among those that are most concerned in the differences, whom not force but reason must convince.” “Pag. 66. “Take heed that outward circumstances and formalities in religion devour not at all.” ‘Pag. 91, 92. “In point of true conscientious tenderness I have so often declared, how little I desire my laws and sceptre should intrench on God’s sovereignty, who is the only king of conscience.” ‘Pag. 123. “Nor do I desire any man should be further subject unto me, than all of us may be subject unto God.” ‘Pag. 200. “O thou Sovereign of our souls, the only commander of our consciences !” ‘Pag. 346. (In his Meditations on Death,) “It is indeed a sad estate, to have his enemies to be his accusers, parties, and judges.” “The prince of Orange testified, Anno 1579, “That it was impossible the land should be kept in peace, except there was a free toleration in the exercise of religion.” “Where hast thou read in thy day (said Menno) in the writings of the apostles, that Christ or the apostles ever cried out to the magistrates for their power against them that would not hear their doctrine, nor
obey their words? I know certainly (said he) that where a magistrate shall banish with the sword, there is not the right knowledge, spiritual word, nor church of Christ; it is, invocare brachium seculare (to invoke the secular arm.”) “It is not christian-like, but tyrannical (said D. Philipson) to banish and persecute people, about faith and religion; and they that do so are certainly of the Pharisaical generation, who resisted the holy ghost.” ‘Erasmus said, “Though they take our monies and goods, they cannot therefore hurt our salvation; they afflict us much with prisons, but they do not thereby separate us from God.”—In de Krydges wrede, fol. 63. “Lucernus said, “He that commandeth any thing wherewith he bindeth the conscience, this is an antichrist.”—In de Bemise Disp. fol. 71. ‘Irenaeus affirmed, “That all forcing of conscience, though it was but a forbidding of the exercise which is esteemed by one or another to be necessary to salvation, is in nowise right nor fitting.” He also affirmed, “That through the diversity of religions the kingdom should not be brought into any disturbance.” ‘Constantius the emperor said, “It was enough that he preserved the unity of the faith, that he might be excusable before the judgment-seat of God; and that he would leave every one to his own understanding, according to the account he will give before the judgment-seat of Christ. Hereto may we stir up people, (said he) not compel them; beseech them to come into the unity of the christians, but to do violence to them, we will not in anywise.”—Sebast. Frank. Chron. fol. 127. ‘Augustinus said, “Some disturbed the peace of the church, while they went about to root out the tares before their time; and through this error of blindness are they themselves separated so much the more from being united unto Christ.” ‘Retnaldus testified, “That he, who with imprisoning and persecuting seeketh to spread the gospel, and greaseth his hands with blood, shall much rather be looked upon for a wild hunter, than a preacher or a defender of the christian religion.” “I have for a long season determined (said Henry IV. king of France, in his speech to the parliament, 1599,) to reform the church, which without peace I cannot do; and it is impossible to reform or convert people by violence. I am king, as a shepherd, and will not shed the blood of my sheep; but will gather them through the mildness and goodness of a king, and not through the power of tyranny: and I will give them that are of the reformed religion, right liberty to live and dwell free, without being examined, perplexed, molested, or compelled to anything contrary to their consciences; for they shall have the free exercise of their religion,” &c. [Vid. Chron. Van de Underg. 2 deel, p. 1514.] ‘Ennius said, “Wisdom is driven out, when the matter is acted by