Sivut kuvina

either his gray hairs or his office.’ ‘Well,” said he, “I am a christian too.” “Then do christian works,’ said I. “Sirrah l’ said he, “thou thinkest to frighten me with thy words.' Then catching himself, and looking aside, he said, ‘hark I am using the word (sirrah) again;' so checked himself. I said, ‘I spoke to thee in love; for that language did not become thee, a judge. Thou oughtest to instruct a prisoner in the law, if he were ignorant and out of the way.” “And I speak in love to thee too,” said he. “But,” said I, ‘love gives no nicknames.’ Then he roused himself up, and said, ‘I will not be afraid of thee, George Fox. Thou speakest so loud, thy voice drowns mine and the court's; I must call for three or four criers to drown thy voice: thou hast good lungs.” “I am a prisoner here,' said I, for the Lord Jesus Christ's sake; for his sake do I suffer, and for him do I stand this day, and if my voice were five times louder I should lift it up, and sound it out for Christ's sake, for whose cause I stand this day before your judgment seat, in obedience to him who commands “not to swear;” before whose judgment seat you must all be brought, and must give an account.” “Well,” said the judge, “George Fox, say whether thou wilt take the oath, yea or nay " I replied, ‘I say as I said before, whether ought I to obey God or man, judge thou? If I could take any oath at all, I should take this; for I do not deny some oaths only or on some occasions, but all oaths, according to Christ's doctrine, who hath commanded his, “not to swear at all.” Now if thou or any of you, or any of your ministers or priests here, will prove that ever Christ or his apostle, after they had forbidden all swearing, commanded christians to swear, then I will swear.' I saw several priests there; but not one of them offered to speak. Then said the judge, ‘I am a servant to the king, and the king sent me not to dispute with you, but to put the laws in execution; therefore tender him the oath of allegiance.” “If thou love the king,” said I, ‘why dost thou break his word, and not keep his declarations and speeches, wherein he promised liberty to tender consciences? I am a man of a tender conscience, and in obedience to Christ's command I cannot swear.’ ‘Then you will not swear,' said the judge; “take him away, gaoler.' I said, “it is for Christ's sake that I cannot swear, and for obedience to his command I suffer; and so the Lord forgive you all.’ So the gaoler took me away; but I felt the mighty power of the Lord was over them all. On the sixteenth of the same month I was brought before judge Twisden again, who was somewhat offended at my hat; but it being the last morning of the assize, before he was to go out of town, and not many people there, he made the less of it. He asked me, ‘Whether I would traverse, stand mute, or submit.' But he spoke so fast, it was hard to know what he said. However I told him, ‘I desired I might have liberty to traverse the indictment, and try it.' Then said he, “Take him away, I will have nothing to do with him, take him away.' I said, “Well, live in the fear of God, and do justice.” “Why, (said he,) have not I done you justice " I replied, “That which thou hast done hath been against the command of Christ.’ So I was taken to the gaol again, and kept prisoner till the next assizes. Some time before this assize, Margaret Fell was sent prisoner to Lancaster gaol by Fleming, Kirby, and Preston, justices; and at the assize the oath was tendered to her also, and she was again committed to prison to lie till the next assize. Justice Fleming being one of the fiercest and most violent justices in persecuting Friends, and sending his honest neighbours to prison for religion's sake; and many Friends being at this time in Lancaster gaol, committed by him, and some having died in prison, we that were then prisoners had it upon us to write to him as followeth.

‘O Justice FLEMING !—Mercy, compassion, love, and kindness adorn and grace men and magistrates. Oh! dost thou not hear the cry of the widows, and the cry of the fatherless, who were made so through persecution I Were they not driven like sheep, from constable to constable, as though they had been the greatest transgressors or malefactors in the land ' Which grieved and tendered the hearts of many sober people, to see how their innocent neighbours and countryman, who were of a peaceable carriage, and honest in their lives and conversations among men, were used and served One more is dead, whom thou sentest to prison, having left five children both fatherless and motherless. How canst thou do otherwise than take care of those fatherless infants, and also of the other's wife and family Is it not thy place 1 Consider Job (ch. xxix.) how he was a father to the poor, he delivered the poor that cried, and the fatherless that had none to help. He broke the jaws of the wicked, and plucked the spoil out of his teeth. But oh! measure thy life and his, and take heed of the day of God's eternal judgment, which will come, and the sentence and decree from Christ, when every man must give an account and receive a reward according to his deeds. Then it will be said, “Oh where are the months that are past !” Again justice Fleming, consider, when John Stubbs was brought before thee, having a wife and four small children, and little to live on but what they honestly got by their own diligence; as soon as he appeared, thou cried out, “Put the oath to that man.” And when he confessed he was but a poor man, thou hadst no regard, but cast away pity, not hearing what he would say. And now he is kept in prison, because he could not swear, and break the command of Christ and the apostle, it is to be hoped thou wilt take care of his family, that his children do not starve; and see that they do not want bread. Can this be allegiance to the king, to do that which Christ and his apostle say is evil, and brings into condemnation? Would not you have cast Christ and the apostle into prison, who commanded “not to swear,” if they had been in your days? Consider also thy poor neighbour, William Wilson, who was known to all the parish and neighbours to be an industrious man, careful to maintain his wife and children; yet had little but what he got with his hands in diligence and travels to supply himself. How should his wife maintain her children, when thou hast cast her husband into prison, and thereby made him incapable of working for them? Therefore it may be expected thou wilt have a care of his wife and children, and see they do not want; for how should they live, having no other way to be sustained but by the little that he got Surely the noise of this is in the very markets, and the death of thy two neighbours, and the cry of the widows and fatherless is heard. All those fatherless and widows are made so for righteousness sake. For might not John Stubbs and William Wilson have had their liberty still, if they would have sworn, though they had been such as go after mountebanks and stage-plays, or run a hunting ! Oh! consider' for the Lord's mind is otherwise. For he is tender, and the king hath declared his mind to be, that there should be no cruelty inflicted upon his peaceable subjects. Besides, several poor honest people were fined, who had need to have something given them; and it had been more honourable to have given them something, than to fine them and send them to prison, some of whom live upon the charity of others. What honour or grace can it be to thee to cast thy poor neighbours into prison, who are peaceable; seeing thou knowest these people cannot do that which thou requirest of them, if it were to save their lives or all that they have Because in tenderness they cannot take any oath, thou makest that a snare to them. What thinkest thou do the people say concerning this? “We know, (say they,) the Quakers' principle that keep to Yea and Nay; but we see others swear and forswear.” For many of you have sworn first one way and then another. So we leave it to the spirit of God in thy conscience, Justice Fleming, who wast so eager for the taking of George Fox, and so offended with them that had not taken him, and now hast fallen upon thy poor neighbours. But oh! where is thy pity for their poor fatherless children, and motherless infants' Oh! take heed of Herod's hard-heartedness, and casting away all pity! Esau did so, not Jacob. Here is also Thomas Walters, of Bolton, cast into prison, and the oath imposed on him through thee, and for denying to swear at all, in obedience to Christ's command, he is continued in prison, who hath five small children and his wife near down-lying. Surely, thou shouldst take care for them also, and see that his wise and small children do not want, who are as fatherless and she as a widow through thee. Dost thou

[ocr errors]

not hear in thy ears the cry of the fatherless, the cry of the widows and the blood of the innocent speak, who through thee have been persecuted to prison, and are now dead Oh! heavy sentence at the day of judgment How wilt thou answer, when thou and thy works come to be judged, when thou shalt be brought before the judgment-seat of the Almighty, who in thy prosperity hast made widows and fatherless for righteousness sake, and for tenderness of conscience towards God ' The Lord knows and sees it! O man consider in thy lifetime how thou hast stained thyself with the blood of the innocent When thou hadst power and mightest have done good amongst thy peaceable neighbours, thou wouldst not: but usedst thy power not to a good intent, but contrary to the Lord's mind and to the king's. The king's favour, mercy, and clemency to sober people and tender consciences hath been manifested by declarations and proclamations, which thou hast abused and slighted by percuting his peaceable subjects. At London and in other parts the Quakers' meetings are peaceable; and is thou look but as far as Yorkshire, where the plot hath been, Friends' innocency hath cleared itself in the hearts of sober justices; and for you here to fall upon your peaceable neighbours and people, and to be rigorous and violent against them that are tender, godly, and righteous, it is no honour to you. How many drunkards swearers, and fighters, and such as are subject to vice, have you caused to be brought before you to your courts? It were more honourable for you to look after such ; for the law was not made for the righteous, but for sinners and transgressors. Therefore consider, and be humbled for these things; for the Lord may do to thee as thou hast done to others; and thou dost not know how soon there may be a cry in thy own family, as the cry is amongst thy neighbours, of the fatherless and widows that are made so through thee. But the Quakers can and do say, “The Lord forgive thee, and lay not these things to thy charge, if it be his will.”

Beside this, which went in the name of many, I sent him also a line or two, subscribed by myself only, and directed

“To Daniel Fleming.

‘FRIEND,-Thou hast imprisoned the servants of the Lord, without the breach of any law, therefore take heed what thou dost (for in the light of the Lord God thou art seen) lest the hand of the Lord be turned against thee! G. F.”

It was not long after this, ere Fleming's wife died, and left him thirteen or fourteen motherless children.

When I was prisoner at Lancaster, there was prisoner also one major Wiggan, a Baptist preacher. He boasted much before-hand what he would say at the assize, if the oath should be put to him; and that he would refuse to swear. But when the assize came, and the oath was tendered him, he desired time to consider of it; and that being granted him till the next assize, he got leave to go to London before the assize came again, and staid at London till the plague broke forth, and there both he and his wife were cut off. He was a very wicked man, and the judgments of God came upon him; for he had published a very wicked book against Friends, full of lies and blasphemies; the occasion of which was this. Whilst he was in Lancaster castle, he challenged Friends to a dispute. Whereupon I got leave of the gaoler to go up to them. And entering into discourse with him, he affirmed, “That some men never had the spirit of God, and that the true light, which enlighteneth every one that cometh into the world, is natural.” For proof of his first assertion, he instanced Balaam, affirming, ‘that Balaam had not the spirit of God,” I affirmed and proved that Balaam had the spirit of God, and that wicked men have the spirit of God, else how could they quench it, vex it, grieve it, and resist the Holy Ghost, like the stiff. necked Jews?” To his second assertion, I answered, “That the true light, which enlighteneth every man that cometh into the world, was the life in the world, and that was divine and eternal, and not natural. And he might as well say, the word was natural, as that the life in the word was natural. And wicked men were enlightened by this light, else how could they hate it ! It is expressly said, they did hate it; and the reason given why, was, “because their deeds were evil;” and they would not come to it, because it reproved them ; and that must needs be in them, which reproved them. Besides, that light could not be the scriptures of the New Testament; for it was testified of before any part of the New Testament was written; so it must be by the divine light, which is the light in Christ, the word, before the scriptures were. And the grace of God, which brought salvation, had appeared unto all men, and taught the saints; but they that turned from it into wantonness, and walked despitefully against the spirit of grace, were the wicked. Again, the spirit of truth, the Holy Ghost, the Comforter, which leads the disciples of Christ into all truth, the same should reprove the world of sin, of righteousness, of judgment, and of their unbelief. So the wicked world had it to reprove them, and the true disciples and learners of Christ, that believed in the light as Christ commands, had it to lead them. But the world that did not believe in the light, though they were lighted, but hated the light which they should have believed in, and loved the darkness rather than it, this world had a righteousness and a judgment, which the Holy Ghost reproved them for, as well as for their unbelief.” Having proved, that the good and the bad were enlightened, that the grace of God had appeared unto all, and that all had the spirit of God, else they could not vex and grieve

« EdellinenJatka »