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GEORGE FOX - An Autobiography

CHAPTER VII. In Prison Again

1653.


VII.

About the beginning of the year 1653 I returned to Swarthmore, and going to a meeting at Gleaston, a professor challenged to dispute with me. I went to the house where he was, and called him to come forth; but the Lord's power was over him, so that he durst not meddle.

I departed thence, visited the meetings of Friends in Lancashire, and came back to Swarthmore. Great openings I had from the Lord, not only of divine and spiritual matters, but also of outward things relating to the civil government.

Being one day in Swarthmore Hall, when Judge Fell and Justice Benson were talking of the news, and of the Parliament then sitting (called the Long Parliament), I was moved to tell them that before that day two weeks the Parliament should be broken up, and the Speaker plucked out of his chair. That day two weeks Justice Benson told Judge Fell that now he saw George was a true prophet; for Oliver had broken up the Parliament.[83]

About this time I was in a fast for about ten days, my spirit being greatly exercised on Truth's behalf: for James Milner and Richard Myer went out into imaginations, and a company followed them. This James Milner and some of his company had true openings at the first; but getting up into pride and exaltation of spirit, they ran out from Truth. I was sent for to them, and was moved of the Lord to go and show them their outgoings. They were brought to see their folly, and condemned it; and came into the way of Truth again.

After some time I went to a meeting at Arnside, where was Richard Myer, who had been long lame of one of his arms. I was moved of the Lord to say unto him amongst all the people, "Stand up upon thy legs," for he was sitting down. And he stood up, and stretched out his arm that had been lame a long time, and said, "Be it known unto you, all people, that this day I am healed."[84] Yet his parents could hardly believe it; but after the meeting was done, they had him aside, took off his doublet, and then saw it was true.

He came soon after to Swarthmore meeting, and there declared how the Lord had healed him. Yet after this the Lord commanded him to go to York with a message from Him, which he disobeyed; and the Lord struck him again, so that he died about three-quarters of a year after.

Now were great threatenings given forth in Cumberland that if ever I came there they would take away my life. When I heard it I was drawn to go into Cumberland; and went to Miles Wennington's, in the same parish from which those threatenings came: but they had not power to touch me.

On a First-day I went into the steeple-house at Bootle;[85] and when the priest had done, I began to speak. But the people were exceeding rude, and struck and beat me in the yard; one gave me a very great blow over my wrist, so that the people thought he had broken my hand to pieces. The constable was very desirous to keep the peace, and would have set some of them that struck me by the heels, if I would have given way to it. After my service amongst them was over, I went to Joseph Nicholson's house, and the constable went a little way with us, to keep off the rude multitude.

In the afternoon I went again. The priest had got to help him another priest, that came from London, and was highly accounted of. Before I went into the steeple-house, I sat a little upon the cross, and Friends with me; but the Friends were moved to go into the steeple-house, and I went in after them.

The London priest was preaching. He gathered up all the Scriptures he could think of that spoke of false prophets, and antichrists, and deceivers, and threw them upon us; but when he had done I recollected all those Scriptures, and brought them back upon himself. Then the people fell upon me in a rude manner; but the constable charged them to keep the peace, and so made them quiet again. Then the priest began to rage, and said I must not speak there. I told him he had his hour-glass, by which he had preached; and he having done, the time was free for me, as well as for him, for he was but a stranger there himself.[86]

So I opened the Scriptures to them, and let them see that those Scriptures that spoke of the false prophets, and antichrists, and deceivers, described them and their generation; and belonged to them who were found walking in their steps, and bringing forth their fruits; and not unto us, who were not guilty of such things. I manifested to them that they were out of the steps of the true prophets and apostles; and showed them clearly; by the fruits and marks, that it was they of whom those Scriptures spoke, and not we. And I declared the Truth, and the Word of life to the people; and directed them to Christ their teacher.

When I came down again to Joseph Nicholson's house, I saw a great hole in my coat, which was cut with a knife; but it was not cut through my doublet, for the Lord had prevented their mischief. The next day there was a rude, wicked man who would have done violence to a Friend, but the Lord's power stopped him.

Now was I moved to send James Lancaster to appoint a meeting at the steeple-house of John Wilkinson, near Cockermouth, -- a preacher in great repute, who had three parishes under him. I stayed at Milholm, in Bootle, till James Lancaster came back again. In the meantime some of the gentry of the country had formed a plot against me, and had given a little boy a rapier, with which to do me mischief. They came with the boy to Joseph Nicholson's to seek me; but the Lord had so ordered it that I was gone into the fields. They met with James Lancaster, but did not much abuse him; and not finding me in the house, they went away again. So I walked up and down in the fields that night, as very often I used to do, and did not go to bed.

We came the next day to the steeple-house where James Lancaster had appointed the meeting. There were at this meeting twelve soldiers and their wives, from Carlisle; and the country people came in, as if it were to a fair. I lay at a house somewhat short of the place, so that many Friends got thither before me. When I came I found James Lancaster speaking under a yew tree which was so full of people that I feared they would break it down.

I looked about for a place to stand upon, to speak unto the people, for they lay all up and down, like people at a leaguer.[87] After I was discovered, a professor asked if I would not go into the church? I, seeing no place abroad convenient to speak to the people from, told him, Yes; whereupon the people rushed in, so that when I came the house and pulpit were so full I had much ado to get in. Those that could not get in stood abroad about the walls.

When the people were settled I stood up on a seat, and the Lord opened my mouth to declare His everlasting Truth and His everlasting day. When I had largely declared the Word of life unto them for about the space of three hours, I walked forth amongst the people, who passed away well satisfied. Among the rest a professor followed me, praising and commending me; but his words were like a thistle to me. Many hundreds were convinced that day, and received the Lord Jesus Christ and His free teaching, with gladness; of whom some have died in the Truth, and many stand faithful witnesses thereof. The soldiers also were convinced, and their wives.

After this I went to a village, and many people accompanied me. As I was sitting in a house full of people, declaring the Word of life unto them, I cast mine eye upon a woman, and discerned an unclean spirit in her. And I was moved of the Lord to speak sharply to her, and told her she was under the influence of an unclean spirit;[88] whereupon she went out of the room. Now, I being a stranger there, and knowing nothing of the woman outwardly, the people wondered at it, and told me afterwards that I had discovered a great thing; for all the country looked upon her to be a wicked person.

The Lord had given me a spirit of discerning, by which I many times saw the states and conditions of people, and could try their spirits. For not long before, as I was going to a meeting, I saw some women in a field, and I discerned an evil spirit in them; and I was moved to go out of my way into the field to them, and declare unto them their conditions. At another time there came one into Swarthmore Hall in the meeting time, and I was moved to speak sharply to her, and told her she was under the power of an evil spirit; and the people said afterwards she was generally accounted so. There came also at another time another woman, and stood at a distance from me, and I cast mine eye upon her, and said, "Thou hast been an harlot"; for I perfectly saw the condition and life of the woman. The woman answered and said that many could tell her of her outward sins, but none could tell her of her inward. Then I told her her heart was not right before the Lord, and that from the inward came the outward. This woman came afterwards to be convinced of God's truth, and became a Friend.

Thence we travelled to Carlisle. The pastor of the Baptists, with most of his hearers, came to the abbey, where I had a meeting; and I declared the Word of life amongst them. Many of the Baptists and of the soldiers were convinced. After the meeting the pastor of the Baptists, an high notionist and a flashy man, asked me what must be damned. I was moved immediately to tell him that that which spoke in him was to be damned. This stopped his mouth; and the witness of God was raised up in him. I opened to him the states of election and reprobation; so that he said he never heard the like in his life. He came afterwards to be convinced.

asterix Then I went to the castle among the soldiers, who beat a drum and called the garrison together. I preached the Truth amongst them, directing them to the Lord Jesus Christ to be their teacher, and to the measure of His Spirit in themselves, by which they might be turned from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto God. I warned them all that they should do no violence to any man, but should show forth a Christian life: telling them that He who was to be their Teacher would be their condemner if they were disobedient to Him. So I left them, having no opposition from any of them, except the sergeants, who afterwards came to be convinced.

On the market-day I went up into the market, to the market-cross. The magistrates had both threatened, and sent their sergeants; and the magistrates' wives had said that if I came there they would pluck the hair off my head; and the sergeants should take me up. Nevertheless I obeyed the Lord God, went up on the cross, and declared unto them that the day of the Lord was coming upon all their deceitful ways and doings, and deceitful merchandise; that they should put away all cozening and cheating, and keep to Yea and Nay, and speak the truth one to another. So the Truth and the power of God was set over them.

After I had declared the Word of life to the people, the throng being so great that the sergeants could not reach me, nor the magistrates' wives come at me, I passed away quietly. Many people and soldiers came to me, and some Baptists, that were bitter contenders; amongst whom one of their deacons, an envious man, finding that the Lord's power was over them, cried out for very anger. Whereupon I set my eyes upon him, and spoke sharply to him in the power of the Lord: and he cried, "Do not pierce me so with thy eyes; keep thy eyes off me."[89]

The First-day following I went into the steeple-house: and after the priest had done, I preached the Truth to the people, and declared the Word of life amongst them. The priest got away; and the magistrates desired me to go out of the steeple-house. But I still declared the way of the Lord unto them, and told them I came to speak the Word of life and salvation from the Lord amongst them. The power of the Lord was dreadful amongst them, so that the people trembled and shook, and they thought the steeple-house shook; some of them feared it would have fallen down on their heads. The magistrates' wives were in a rage, and strove mightily to get at me: but the soldiers and friendly people stood thick about me.

At length the rude people of the city rose, and came with staves and stones into the steeple-house, crying, "Down with these round-headed rogues"; and they threw stones. Whereupon the governor sent a file or two of musketeers into the steeple-house to appease the tumult, and commanded all the other soldiers out. So those soldiers took me by the hand in a friendly manner, and said they would have me along with them.

When we came into the street the city was in an uproar. The governor came down; and some of the soldiers were put in prison for standing by me against the townspeople.

A lieutenant, who had been convinced, came and brought me to his house, where there was a Baptist meeting, and thither came Friends also. We had a very quiet meeting; they heard the Word of life gladly, and many received it.

The next day, the justices and magistrates of the town being gathered together in the town-hall, they granted a warrant against me, and sent for me before them. I was then gone to a Baptist's; but hearing of it, I went up to the hall, where many rude people were, some of whom had sworn false things against me. I had a great deal of discourse with the magistrates, wherein I laid open the fruits of their priests' preaching, showed them how they were void of Christianity, and that, though they were such great professors (for they were Independents and Presbyterians) they were without the possession of that which they professed. After a large examination they committed me to prison as a blasphemer, a heretic, and a seducer,[90] though they could not justly charge any such thing against me.

The jail at Carlisle had two jailers, an upper and an under, who looked like two great bear-wards. When I was brought in the upper jailer took me up into a great chamber, and told me I should have what I would in that room. But I told him he should not expect any money from me, for I would neither lie in any of his beds, nor eat any of his victuals. Then he put me into another room, where after awhile I got something to lie upon.

There I lay till the assizes came, and then all the talk was that I was to be hanged. The high sheriff, Wilfred Lawson, stirred them much up to take away my life, and said he would guard me to my execution himself. They were in a rage, and set three musketeers for guard upon me, one at my chamber-door, another at the stairs-foot, and a third at the street door; and they would let none come at me, except one sometimes, to bring me some necessary things.

At night, sometimes as late as the tenth hour, they would bring up priests to me, who were exceeding rude and devilish. There were a company of bitter Scotch priests, Presbyterians, made up of envy and malice, who were not fit to speak of the things of God, they were so foul-mouthed. But the Lord, by His power, gave me dominion over them all, and I let them see both their fruits and their spirits. Great ladies also (as they were called) came to see the man that they said was to die. While the judge, justices, and sheriff were contriving together how they might put me to death, the Lord disappointed their design by an unexpected way.[91]

The next day, after the judges were gone out of town, an order was sent to the jailer to put me down into the prison amongst the moss-troopers,[92] thieves, and murderers; which accordingly he did. A filthy, nasty place it was, where men and women were put together in a very uncivil manner, and never a house of office to it; and the prisoners were so lousy that one woman was almost eaten to death with lice. Yet bad as the place was, the prisoners were all made very loving and subject to me, and some of them were convinced of the Truth, as the publicans and harlots were of old; so that they were able to confound any priest that might come to the grates to dispute.

But the jailer was cruel, and the under-jailer very abusive both to me and to Friends that came to see me; for he would beat with a great cudgel Friends who did but come to the window to look in upon me. I could get up to the grate, where sometimes I took in my meat; at which the jailer was often offended. Once he came in a great rage and beat me with his cudgel, though I was not at the grate at that time; and as he beat me, he cried, "Come out of the window," though I was then far from it. While he struck me, I was moved in the Lord's power to sing, which made him rage the more. Then he fetched a fiddler, and set him to play, thinking to vex me. But while he played, I was moved in the everlasting power of the Lord God to sing; and my voice drowned the noise of the fiddle, struck and confounded them, and made them give over fiddling and go their way.

asterix Whilst I was in prison at Carlisle, James Parnell, a little lad about sixteen years of age, came to see me, and was convinced. The Lord quickly made him a powerful minister of the Word of life, and many were turned to Christ by him, though he lived not long. For, travelling into Essex in the work of the ministry, in the year 1655, he was committed to Colchester castle, where he endured very great hardships and sufferings. He was put by the cruel jailer into a hole in the castle wall, called the oven, so high from the ground that he went up to it by a ladder, which being six feet too short, he was obliged to climb from the ladder to the hole by a rope that was fastened above. When Friends would have given him a cord and a basket in which to draw up his victuals, the inhuman jailer would not suffer them, but forced him to go down and up by that short ladder and rope to fetch his victuals, which for a long time he did, or else he might have famished in the hole.

At length his limbs became much benumbed with lying in that place; yet being still obliged to go down to take up some victuals, as he came up the ladder again with his victuals in one hand, and caught at the rope with the other, he missed the rope, and fell down from a very great height upon the stones; by which fall he was so wounded in the head, arms, and body, that he died a short time after.[93]

While I thus lay in the dungeon at Carlisle, the report raised at the time of the assize that I should be put to death was gone far and near; insomuch that the Parliament then sitting, which, I think, was called the Little Parliament, hearing that a young man at Carlisle was to die for religion, caused a letter to be sent the sheriff and magistrates concerning me.

Not long after this the Lord's power came over the justices, and they were made to set me at liberty. But some time previous the governor and Anthony Pearson came down into the dungeon, to see the place where I was kept and understand what usage I had had. They found the place so bad and the savour so ill, that they cried shame on the magistrates for suffering the jailer to do such things. They called for the jailers into the dungeon, and required them to find sureties for their good behaviour; and the under-jailer, who had been such a cruel fellow, they put into the dungeon with me, amongst the moss-troopers.

Now I went into the country, and had mighty great meetings. The everlasting gospel and Word of life flourished, and thousands were turned to the Lord Jesus Christ, and to His teaching.

The priests and magistrates were in a great rage against me in Westmoreland, and had a warrant to apprehend me, which they renewed from time to time, for a long time; yet the Lord did not suffer them to serve it upon me. I travelled on amongst Friends, visiting the meetings till I came to Swarthmore, where I heard that the Baptists and professors in Scotland had sent to have a dispute with me. I sent them word that I would meet them in Cumberland, at Thomas Bewley's house, whither accordingly I went, but none of them came.

Some dangers at this time I underwent in my travels; for at one time, as we were passing from a meeting, and going through Wigton on a market-day, the people of the town had set a guard with pitchforks; and although some of their own neighbours were with us, they kept us out of the town, and would not let us pass through it, under the pretence of preventing the sickness; though there was no occasion for any such thing. However, they fell upon us, and had like to have spoiled us and our horses; but the Lord restrained them, that they did not much hurt; and we passed away.

Another time, as I was passing between two Friends' houses, some rude fellows lay in wait in a lane, and exceedingly stoned and abused us; but at last, through the Lord's assistance, we got through them, and had not much hurt. But this showed the fruits of the priest's teaching, which shamed their profession of Christianity.

After I had visited Friends in that county, I went through the county into Durham, having large meetings by the way. A very large one I had at Anthony Pearson's, where many were convinced. From thence I passed through Northumberland to Derwentwater, where there were great meetings; and the priests threatened that they would come, but none came. The everlasting Word of life was freely preached, and freely received; and many hundreds were turned to Christ, their teacher.

asterix In Northumberland many came to dispute, of whom some pleaded against perfection. Unto these I declared that Adam and Eve were perfect before they fell; that all that God made was perfect; that the imperfection came by the devils and the fall; but that Christ, who came to destroy the devil, said, "Be ye perfect."

One of the professors alleged that Job said, "Shall mortal man be more pure than his Maker? The heavens are not clean in His sight. God charged His angels with folly." But I showed him his mistake, and let him see that it was not Job that said so, but one of those that contended against Job; for Job stood for perfection, and held his integrity; and they were called miserable comforters.

Then these professors said that the outward body was the body of death and sin. I showed them their mistake in that also; for Adam and Eve had each of them an outward body, before the body of death and sin got into them; and that man and woman will have bodies when the body of sin and death is put off again; when they are renewed again into the image of God by Christ Jesus, in which they were before they fell. So they ceased at that time from opposing further; and glorious meetings we had in the Lord's power.

Then passed we to Hexam, where we had a great meeting on top of a hill. The priest threatened that he would come and oppose us, but he came not; so all was quiet. And the everlasting day and renowned Truth of the ever-living God was sounded over those dark countries, and His Son exalted over all. It was proclaimed amongst the people that the day was now come wherein all that made a profession of the Son of God might receive Him; and that to as many as would receive Him He would give power to become the sons of God, as He had done to me.

It was further declared that he who had the Son of God, had life eternal; but he that had not the Son of God, though he professed all the Scriptures from the first of Genesis to the last of the Revelation, had no life.

So after all were directed to the light of Christ, by which they might see Him, receive Him, and know where their true teacher was, and the everlasting Truth had been largely declared amongst them, we passed through Hexam peaceably, and came into Gilsland, a country noted for thieving.

The next day we came into Cumberland again, where we had a general meeting of thousands of people on top of an hill near Langlands. A glorious and heavenly meeting it was; for the glory of the Lord did shine over all; and there were as many as one could well speak over,[94] the multitude was so great. Their eyes were turned to Christ, their teacher; and they came to sit under their own vine; insomuch that Francis Howgill, coming afterwards to visit them, found they had no need of words; for they were sitting under their teacher Christ Jesus; in the sense whereof He sat down amongst them, without speaking anything.

A great convincement there was in Cumberland, Bishoprick, Northumberland, Westmoreland, Lancashire, and Yorkshire; and the plants of God grew and flourished, the heavenly rain descending, and God's glory shining upon them. Many mouths were opened by the Lord to His praise; yea, to babes and sucklings he ordained strength.

Chapter Eight ...>


Notes and Links

[83] Cromwell ejected the "Rump" Parliament April 20th, 1653. There is no contemporary authentification of this prophecy, but there is no reason to doubt the correctness of this account. Such cases of specific fore-seeing have been common throughout the entire history of Friends. They have received some slight investigation by the London branch of the Society for Psychical Research, though they have never received the careful investigation which they deserve.

[84] This case of healing belongs in the inexhaustible list of cases of healing by faith. There are many forms of mental healing and of faith healing, and the researches of modern psychology have given us a principle of explanation for all cures of this sort. All such remarkable events seemed to George Fox to partake of the miraculous and most naturally gave him the impression that he was a peculiarly-chosen instrument of the Lord.

[85] In Cumberland.

[86] This passage throws interesting light on the church customs of the time. After the minister has preached his hour by the hour glass there is then liberty for any one to speak. George Fox himself evidently did not observe the hour glass.

[87] This indicates that he had seen besieging armies during the Civil War.

[88] It must be remembered that Fox uses here the language and the popular ideas of the time, as we should expect him to do.

[89] This is an interesting testimony to the power of George Fox's eyes. The same remark is made on several occasions during his life. This power of the eye undoubtedly was a considerable element in his commanding influence over others.

[90] As in Derby, the charge is blasphemy, under the Act of 1618. The report, spoken of later, that he would be put to death, was not mere rumor, for it was a real possibility under this Act.

[91] Justice Anthony Pearson pointed out to the judges of the Carlisle courts that there was no evidence to support the charges against the prisoner, and that he was illegally held. He was finally dismissed without formal trial. The release of Fox was, however, hastened by an urgent letter from Parliament (the famous Barebones Parliament), requesting that he be set free.

[92] A kind of freebooter.

[93] This is one of the saddest stories in the annals of Quaker martyrology. James Parnell was well trained mentally, and held successful discussions with the Cambridge students. The dungeon in Colchester Castle, where this brief holy life came to an end, is still visited by tourists.

[94] That is, reach with the voice.