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On the first day of the week next after the act came in force, I went to the meeting at Gracechurch-street, where I expected the storm was most likely to begin. When I came there I found the street full of people, and a guard set to keep friends out of their meeting-house. I went thereupon to the other passage that goes out of Lombardstreet, and there also I found a guard, but the court was full of people, and a friend was speaking amongst them; but spake not long. And when he had done I stood up, and was moved to say, Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me; it is hard for thee to kick against that that pricks thee. Then I shewed that it is Saul's nature tbat persecutes still, and that they who persecute Christ in his members now where he is made manifest, kick against that which prcks them. That it was the birth of the flesh that persecuted the birth born of the Spirit; and that it was the nature of dogs to tear and devour the sheep, but that we suffered as sheep that did not bite again; for we were a peaceable people, and did love them that persecuted us. After I had spoken a while to this effect, the constable came with an informer and soldiers, and as they plucked me down, I said, Blessed are the peace-makers. The commander of the soldiers put me among the soldiers, and bid them secure me, saying to me, you are the man I looked for. They took also John Burneyate and another friend, and had us away first to the Exchange, and afterward towards Moorfields. As we went along the streets the people were very moderate, and some of them laughed at the constable, and told him we would not run away. The informer went with us. unknown, till falling into discourse with one of the company, he said, it would never be a good world till all people came to the old religion that was two hundred years ago. Whereupon I asked him, Art thou a papist ? What! a papist informer; for two hundred years ago there was no other religion but that of the papists. He saw he had ensnared himself, and was vexed at it; for as he went along the streets I spake often to him, and manifested what he was. When we were come to the mayor's house and were in the court-yard, several of the people that stood about, asked me how and for what I was taken; I desired them to ask the informer, and also know what his name was; but he refused to tell his name. Whereupon one of the mayor's officers looking out at a window, told him he should tell his name before he went away; for the Lord Mayor (he said) would know by what authority he intruded himself with soldiers into the execution of those laws which belonged to the civil
magistrate to execute, and not to the military. After this he was restless and eager to be gone, and went to the porter to be let out. One of the officers called to him, saying, have you brought people here to inform against, and now will you go away before my lord mayor comes ? Some called to the porter not to let him out; whereupon he forcibly pulled open the door, and slipped out. No sooner was he come into the street, but the people gave a shout, that made the street ring again, crying out, A papist informer! a papist informer! We desired the constable and soldiers to go forth, and rescue him out of the people's hands, fearing lest they should have done him a mischief. They went, and brought him into the mayor's entry, where they staid awhile, but when he went out again the people received him with such another shout; whereupon the soldiers were fain to go and rescue him once more, and then they had him into a house in an alley, where they persuaded him to change his perriwig, and so he got away unknown.
When the mayor came home we were brought into the room where he was, and some of his officers would have taken off our hats, which he perceiving, called to them, and bid them let us alone, and not meddle with our hats, for, said be, they are not yet brought before me in judicature. So we stood by while he examined some presbyterian and baptist teachers, with whom he was somewhat sharp, and convicted them. After he had done with them, I was brought up to the table where he sate, and then the officers took off my hat; and the mayor said mildly to me, Mr. Fox, you are an eminent man amongst those of your profession; pray, will you be instrumental to dissuade them from meeting in such great numbers ? for, said he, seeing Christ hath promised that where two or three are met in his name, he will be in the midst of them, and the king and parliament are graciously pleased to allow of four to meet together to worship God, why will not you be content to partake both of Christ's promise to two or three, and the king's indulgence to four ? I answered to this purpose : that Christ's promise was not to discourage many from meeting together in his name, but to encourage the few, that the fewest might not forbear to meet because of their fewness. But if Christ hath promised to manifest his presence in the midst of so small an assembly, where but two or three were gathered in his name, how much more would his presence abound where two or three hundred are gathered in his name? I wished him to consider whether this act would not have taken hold of Christ with his twelve apostles and his seventy disciples (if it had been in their
time) who used to meet often together, and that with great numbers. However I told him this act did not concern us, for it was made against seditious meetings, of such as met under colour and pretence of religion, to contrive insurrections, as (the act says) late experience had shewn; but we had been sufficiently tried and proved, and always found peaceable, and therefore he should do well to put a difference between the innocent and the guilty. He said, the act was made against meetings, and a worship not according to the liturgy. I told him, 'according to 'was not, the very same thing: and I asked him whether the liturgy was according to the scriptures; and whether we might not read scriptures and speak scriptures. He said, yes. I told him this act took hold only of such, as did meet to plot and contrive insurrections, as late experience had shewn, but they had never experier.ced that by us. Because thieves are sometimes on the road must not honest men travel tlierefore? and because plotters and contrivers have met to do mischief, must not an honest peaceable people meet to do good? If we had been a people that did meci to plot and contrive insurrections, &c. we might have drawn ourselves into fours, for four might do more mischief in plotting than if there were four hundred, because four might speak out their minds more freely one to another than four hundred could. Therefore, we being innocent, and not the people this act concerns, we keep our meetings as we used to do: and, I said, I believed that he knew in his conscience we were innocent. After this and some more discourse, he took our names and the places where we lodged, and at length, inasmuch as the informer was gone, set us at liberty.
Being set at liberty the friends that were with me asked me whither I would go, I told them to Gracechurch-street meeting again, if it were not over. When we came there the people were generally gone,
only some few stood at the gate. We went into Gerrard Roberts's house, and from thence I sent out to know how the other meetings in the city were; and I understood that at some of the meeting. places friends were kept out, and at others they were taken, but set at liberty again a few days after. A glorious time it was, for the Lord's power came over all, and his ever. lasting truth got renown. For as fast as some that were speaking were taken down, others were moved of the Lord to stand up and speak, to the admiration of the people, and the more, because many baptists and other sectaries left their public meetings, and came to see how the quakers would stand. As for the informer aforesaid, he was so frighted, that there durst hardly any imformer appear pub.
licly again in London for some time after. But the mayor, whose name was Samuel Starling, though he carried himself smoothly towards us, proved afterwards a very great persecutor of our friends, many of whom he cast into prison, as may be seen in the books of the trials of W. Penn, W. Mead, and others at the Old Bailey this year.
After some time the heat of persecution in the city began to abate, and meetings were quieter there, and I, being then clear of the city, went to visit friends in the country, hav. ing several meetings as I went, in Middlesex, Buckinghamshire, and Oxfordshire, which were quiet, though in some places there was much threatening. At Reading most of the friends were in prison, and I went thither to visit them; and when I had been a while with them, the friends that were prisoners gathered together, and several other persons came in, so that I had a fine opportunity amongst them, and declared the Word of Life, encouraging them in the truth, and they were refreshed in feeling the presence and power of the Lord.amongst them. When the meeting was ended, the jailer understanding that I was there, the friends were troubled and concerned how to get me out safe again, for they feared lest he should stop me. But after I had staid awhile and eaten with them, I went down the stairs, and the jailer being at the door, I put my hand in my pocket, which he had such an eye to, hoping to get something of me, that he asked me no question : so I gave him something, and bad him be kind and civil to my friends in prison, whom I came to visit; and he let me pass out without interruption. But soon after Isaac Pennington coming to visit them, he stopped him and caused bim to be made a prisoner.
Next morning I rid about fourteen miles to a meeting, at a place called Baghurst in Hampshire, Thomas Briggs being with me. When we came into the parish some sober people came to us, and told us that the priest of the town was an envious man, and did threaten us. We went on to the meeting, which was large; and after some time Thomas Briggs stood up and spake. Now it seems the priest had got a warrant, and sent the constables and other officers with it; and they came to the house and staid awhile, and then went away again, but did not come into the meeting, so we in the meeting did not know of their being there, But after Thomas Briggs had done speaking, I was moved of the Lord to stand up, and declared the Word of Life to the people, and a precious meeting we had. When I had done speaking, and the meeting was ended and risen, I heard a great clutter in the yard, and when we came forth the man of the house told us, that the officers had been in the house before, but did not come into the meeting, but went away without doing any thing; and that now the priest in a great rage had sent them again, and his own servant with them. But the meeting being ended before they came, they could do nothing now; and thus the good providence of the Lord preserved us from the wicked design of the envious priest, and out of bis snare, but the priest was in a great rage.
From thenee we went to a friend's house on the edge of Berkshire, where several friends came to visit us. And afterwards we passed into Surrey, visiting friends, and had many precious meetings, till we came to Stephen Smith's, near Guildford, where great persecution had been, and very much goods had been taken away from friends there. abouts for their meetings, and under great threatenings they were at that time; yet we had several blessed meetings there and thereabouts, and the Lord's power was over all, in and by which we were preserved.
We went out of Surrey into Sussex, by Richard Baxe's, where we had a large precious meeting, and quiet, though the constables bad given out threatenings before. Afterwards I had many more meetings up and down in that county, and though there were some threatenings, yet meetings were peaceable, and friends were refreshed and established upon the foundation of God, that stands sure. When I had thoroughly visited Sussex I went into Kent, and had many glorious and precious meetings in several parts of that county. I went up into East Kent to a meeting near Deal, which was very large, and returning from thence to Canterbury, visited friends there, and then passed into the Isle of Sheppy, where I staid two or three days, and thither came Alexander Parker, George Whitehead, and John Rouse to me.
The next day after they came, finding my service for the Lord finished there, we passed away towards Rochester ; and on the way, as I was walking down a hill, a great weight and oppression fell upon my spirit; I got on my horse again, but the weight remained so heavy on me that I was hardly able to ride. At length we came to Rochester, but I was much spent, being so extremely loaden and burdened with the world's spirits, that my life was oppressed under them. I got with difficulty to Gravesend, and lay at an inn there, but could hardly either eat or sleep. The next day John Rouse and Alexander Parker went for London, and John Stubhs being come to me, he and I went over the ferry into Essex. We came to a place called