« VorigeDoorgaan »
friends, and having many meetings amongst them at Cirencester, Crown Allins, Cheltenham, Stoke-Orchard, Tewkesbury, &c. so went to Worcester, where I had formerly suffered imprisonment above a year for the truth's sake; and friends rejoiced greatly to see me there again. Here I siaid several days, and had many very precious meetings in the city, and much service amongst friends. After which travelling through the country, I had meetings at Parshow and Evesham, and then struck to Ragley in Warwickshire, to visit her that was called the Lady Conway, who I understood was very desirous to see me, and whom I found tender and loving, and willing to have detained me longer than I had freedom to stay. About two miles from hence I had two meetings at a friend's house, whose name was John Stangley, whither William Dewsbury came to me, and staid with me about half a day. Afterwards ! visited friends in their meetings thereabouts, at Stratford, Lamcoat, and Armscott (from whence it was that 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 LongCrendon, Ilmer, Mendle, Weston, Cholsberry, Chesham, &c. having several meetings amonget them, I came to Isaac Penington's, where I staid a few days; and then turning into Hertfordshire, visited friends at Charlewood, Watford, 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, and at Barnet and Hendon, where I had meetings, I came to London on the eighth day of the third month. And it being the fourthday of the week, I went to Gracious-street meeting, which was peaceable and well, and 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 advantages against us, to prosecute us in several parts of the nation upon those statutes. So friends being attending on that service when I came, I
joined with 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 we much misrepresented by our adversaries. But when I went down one morning with George Whitehead to the parliament house, to attend upon 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 up out of most parts of the nation, and a glorious heavenly meeting we had. Oh the glory, majesty, love, life, wisdom, and unity, that were 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 writ to my wife, the copy whereof bere 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; and the Lord hath in his power knit friends wonderfully together, and the glorious presence of the Lord did appear among friends. And now the meet. ings 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 their yearly meeting at Amsterdam. At Embden, friends that were banished, are gotten into the city again. At Dantzic, 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 among 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 that they be all in love there. And at Barbadoes friends are in quietness, and their meetings settled in peace. At Antego 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 mens' and womens' 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. For we are a people that do exercise a good conscience towards God through his holy Spirit, and in it do serve, and worship, and honour bim; and towards men in the things that be equal and just, doing to them as we would have them do unto us; and 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. And so, that which we desire of thee, () 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 do hope, cannot but say that this duty and service is due to God and Christ, and we give Cæsar his due, and pay our tribute and custom equal with our neighbour, according to our proportion. And 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. And then Christ will send his angels to sever the wheat from the tares, &c. And also he rebuked such that would have had fire to come down
from heaven, to consume such that would not receive Christ; and told them that they did not know what spirit they were of; he canje not to destroy men's lives, but to save them.
• And therefore we desire the king to consider how much persecution has been in Christendom since the apostles' days, concerning religion. And 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 ? And now none
that the world is ended ; and therefore how will all 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 pretence of plucking up tares; which is not their work, but the angels, at the end of the world? And Christ commands men to love one another, and to love eneinies, and by this they should be known to be bis disciples. And therefore, Oh! 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 do own God and Jesus, and walk as becomes the glorious gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ. And so our desires are, that the Lord God of heaven may soften the king's heart to all tender consciences that do fear the Lord, and are afraid of disobeying him.
And now we intreat the king to read over some of the noble expressions of several kings and others, concerning liberty of conscience; and especially Stephanus, king of Poland, bis 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 yon profess to be your head and captain, then it behoveth 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 ihen will he not be your captain, &c.
• And 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 furthermore he said, it was usually the condition of Christians to be persecuted, but not to persecute.
• And also king Charles, in his ’Esxào Basinon, 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.
And page 28, Make them at length seriously to consider, that nothing violent nor injurious, can be religious.
• Page 70, Nor is it so proper to hew out religious re. formation 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.
. And page 66, Take heed, that outward circumstances and formalities in religion devour not all.
And page 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.
Page 123, Nor do I desire any man should be further subject unto me, than all of us may be subject unto God.
Page 200, ó thou Sovereign of our souls, the only Commander of our consciences.
- Page 346, (in bis Meditations on Death), It is indeed a sad state 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.
And further, Where hast thou read in thy day (said Menno) in the writing of the apostles, that Christ or the apostles ever cried out to the magistrate for their power against them that would not hear their doctrine, nor obey their words? I know certainly (said he) that where a