« VorigeDoorgaan »
and being come into the house, I asked him how he did ? How do I ? said he, the plagues and vengeance of God are upon me, a runnagate, a Cain as I am; God may look for a witness for me and such as me, for if all were no faithfuller than I, God would have no witness left in the earth. In this condition he lived there on bread and water, and thought it was too good for him. At length he got home again with his wife to his own house at Barrow, where afterwards he came to be convinced of God's eternal truth and died in it. A little before his death he said, though he had not borne a testimony for truth in his life, he would bear a testimony in his death, and would be buried in his orchard, and was so. He was an example to all the flying baptists in the time of persecution, who could not bear persecution themselves, and yet persecuted us when they
. From Barnet Hills we came to Swanington in Leicestershire, where Will. Smith and some other friends came to me, but they passed away towards night, leaving me at a friend's house in Swanington. At night, as I was sitting in the hall, speaking to a widow woman and her daughter, there came one called lord Beaumont with a company of soldiers, who slapping their swords on the door, rushed into the house with their swords and pistols in their bands, crying, put out the candles and make fast the doors. Then they seized upon the friends in the house, and asked if there were no more about the house? The friends told them, there was one man more in the hall. Now there being some friends that came out of Derbyshire, one of them was named Thomas Fauks; and this lord Beaumont (so called) after he had asked all their names, bid his man set down that man's name Thomas Fox; but the friend said, nay, his name was not Fox but Fauks. In the mean time some of the soldiers came, and fetched me out of the hall, and brought me to him, and he asked me my name; I told him my name was George Fox, and that I was well known by that name. Ay, said he, you are known all the world over; I said, I was known for no hurt, but for good. Then he put his bands into my pockets to search them, and plucked out my comb-case, and afterwards commanded one of his officers to search further for letters, as he pretended, I told him I was no letter carrier, and asked him why would he come amongst a peaceable people with swords and pistols without a constable, which was contrary to the king's proclamation and to the late act ? For he could not say there was a meeting, I being only talking with a poor widow woman and her daughter. By reasoning thus
with him he came somewhat down; yet sending for the constables, he gave them charge of us that night, and to bring us before him next morning. Accordingly the constables set a watch of the town's people upon us that night, and had us up next morning to his house, about a mile from Swanington. When we came before him, he told ug we met contrary to the act; whereupon I desired him to shew us the act. Why, says he, you have it in your pocket. I told him he did not find us in a meeting. Then he asked us, whether we would take the oaths of allegiance and supremacy? I told him, I never took any oath in all my life, nor engagement, nor the covenant; yet still he would force the oath upon us. Then I desired him to shew us the oath, that we might see whether we were the persons the oath was to be tendered to, and whether it was not for the discovery of popish recusants. At length he brought forth a little book; but we called for the statutebook. He would not shew us that, but caused a mittimus to be made, which mentioned, that we were to bave had a meeting; and with this mittimus he delivered us to the constables to convey us to Leicester jail. But when the constables had brought us back to Swanington, it being harvest time it was hard to get any body to go with us, for the people were loth to go with their neighbours to prison, especially in such a busy time. They would have given us our mittimus to have carried it ourselves to the jail, for it had been usual for constables to give friends their own mittimus, (for they durst trust friends, and they have gone themselves with their mittimus to the jailer. But we told them, though our friends had sometimes done so, yet we would not take this mittimus, but some of them should go with us to the jail. At last they hired a poor labouring man to go with us, who yet was loth to have gone, though hired; so we rid through the country to Leicester, being five of us in number; some carried their bibles open in their hands, declaring the truth to the people, as we rode in the fields and through the towns, and telling them, we were the prisoners of the Lord Jesus Christ, going to suffer bonds for his name and truth-sake; and one woman friend carried her wheel on her lap to spin on in prison; and the people were mightily affected. At Leicester we went to an inn, and the master of the house seemed to be troubled that we should go to prison ; and being himself in commission, he sent for lawyers in the town to advise with, and would have taken up the mittimus and kept us in his own house, and not have let us gone into the jail. But I told friends, it would be great
charge to lie at an inn, and many friends and people would be coming to visit us, and it might be hard for him to bear our having meetings in his house; and besides, we had many friends in the prison already, and we had rather be with them. So we let the man know that we were sensible of his kindness, and to prison we went; the poor man that brought us thither, delivering both the mittimus and us to the jailer. This jailer had been a very wicked cruel man; and there being six or seven friends in prison before we came, he had taken some occasion to quarrel with them, and thrust them into the dungeon amongst the felons, where was hardly room for them to lie down, they were so thronged. We staid all that day in the prisonyard, and desired the jailer to let us have some straw; he surlily answered, you do not look like men that would lie on straw. After a while William Smith, a friend, came to me, and he being acquainted in the house, I asked him what rooms there were in the house, and what rooms friends usually had been put into, before they were put into the dungeon: I asked him also, whether the jailer or his wife was master ? He said, the wife was master, and that, though she was lame, and sate mostly in her chair, not being able to go but on crutches, yet she would beat her husband when he came within her reach, if he did not do as she would have him do. Now I considered, that probably many friends might come to visit us, and that, if we had a room to ourselves it would be better for them to speak to me, and for me to speak to them, as there should be occasion. Wherefore I desired William Smith to go speak with the woman, and let her know, if she would let us have a room, and let our friends come up out of the dungeon, and leave it to us and them, to give her what we would, it might be better for her. He went, and after some reasoning with her, she consented, and we were bad into a room. Then we were told that the jailer would not suffer us to fetch any drink out of the town into the prison, but that what beer we drank we must take of him. I told them I would remedy that, if they would, for we would get a pail of water and a little wormwood once a day, and that might serve us; so we should have none of his beer, and the water he could not deny us.
Before we came there, when those few friends that were prisoners there, did meet together on the first-days, if any of them was moved to pray to the Lord, the jailer would come up with his great quarter-staff in his hand, and his mastiff dog at his heels, and would pluck them down by
the hair of the head, and strike them with his staff; bat when he struck friends, the mastiff dog, instead of falling upon friends, would take the staff out of his hand. Now when the first-day came, after we came in, I spake to one of my fellow-prisoners, to carry down a stool and set it in the yard, and give notice to the debtors and felons, that there would be a meeting in the yard, and they that would hear the word of the Lord declared might come thither. So the debtors and prisoners went into the yard, and we went down, and had a very precious meeting, the jailer not meddling. Thus every first-day we had a meeting there as long as we staid in prison ; and several came in out of the city and country, and many were convinced, and some received the Lord's truth there, who stood faithful witnesses for it ever since.
When the sessions came we were had up before the justices, with many more friends, that were sent to prison whilst we were there, to the number of about twenty. Being brought into the court, the jailer put us into the place were the thieves were put, and then some of the justices began to tender the oaths of allegiance and su. premacy to us.
I told them I never took any oath in my life, and they knew we could not swear, because Christ and his apostle forbad it; and therefore they put it but as a snare to us. But we told them, if they could prove, that after Christ and the apostle had forbid swearing, they did ever command Christians to swear, then we would take these oaths, otherwise we were resolved to obey Christ's command and the apostle's exhortation. They said, we must take the oath, that we might manifest our allegiance to the king. I told them, I had been formerly sent up a prisoner by colonel Hacker, from that town to London, under pretence that I held meetings to plot to bring in king Charles. I also desired them to read our mittimus, which set forth the cause of our commitment to be, that we were to have a meeting; and I said, he that was called lord Beaumont could not by that act send us to jail, unless we bad been taken at a meeting, and found to be such persons as the act speaks of; therefore we desired they would read the mittimus, and see how wrongfully we were imprisoned. They would not take notice of the mittimus, but called a jury and indicted us for refusing to take the oaths of allegiance and supremacy. When the jury was sworn and instructed, as they were going out, one that had been an alderman of the city, spake to them, and bid them have a good conscience; and one of the jury, being a peevish
man, told the justices, there was one affronted the jury; whereupon they called him up and tendered him the oath also, and he took it,
While we were standing in the place, where the thieves used to stand, there was a cut-purse had his hand in several friends pockets, and friends declared it to the justices, and shewed them the man; they called him up before them, and upon examination he could not deny it, yet they set him at liberty.
It was not long before the jury returned and brought us in guilty; and then, after some words, the justices whispered together, and bid the jailer take us down to prison again; but the Lord's power was over them and bis everlasting truth, which we declared boldly amongst them. And there being a great concourse of people, most of them followed us; so that the cryer and bailiffs were feign to call the people back again to the court; we declared the truth as we went down the streets all along, till we came to the jail, the streets being full of people. When we were in our chamber again, after some time the jailer came to us, and desired all to go forth that were not prisoners, and when they were gone, he said, 'Gentlemen, it is the court's pleasure, that ye should all be set at liberty, except those that are in for tithes; and you know, there are fees due to me, but I shall leave it to you to give me what you will.'
Thus were we all set at liberty on a sudden ; and being thus set at liberty, the rest passed every one into their services; only Leonard Fell (being come thither) staid with me, and we two went again to Swanington. I had a letter from him they called the lord Hastings, who hearing of my imprisonment, had written from London to the
justices at the sessions to set me at liberty. Now I had • not delivered this letter to the justices, but whether they
had any knowledge of his mind from any other hand, which made them discharge us so suddenly, I know not; but this letter I carried to him called the lord Beaumont who had sent us to prison, and when he had broken it open, and read it, he seemed much troubled; but at last came a little lower, yet threatened us, if we had any more meetings at Swanington, he would break them up and, send us to prison again. But notwithstanding his threats, we went to Swanington and bad a meeting with friends there, and he came not, nor sent not to break it up.
From Swanington we passed through the country, and came to a place called Twy-cross, where that great man formerly mentioned, whom the Lord God had raised up