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GEORGE FOX - An Autobiography

CHAPTER XII. Great Events in London.



We came into Bedfordshire, where we had large gatherings in the name of Jesus.[141] After some time we came to John Crook's, where a general yearly meeting for the whole nation was appointed to be held.[142] This meeting lasted three days, and many Friends from most parts of the nation came to it; so that the inns and towns round thereabouts were filled, for many thousands of people were at it. And although there was some disturbance by some rude people that had run out from Truth, yet the Lord's power came over all, and a glorious meeting it was. The everlasting gospel was preached, and many received it, which gospel brought life and immortality to light in them, and shined over all.

Now these things were upon me to open unto all, that they might mind and see what it is they sit down in.[143]

"First, They that sit down in Adam in the fall, sit down in misery, in death, in darkness and corruption.

"Secondly, They that sit down in the types, figures, and shadows, and under the first priesthood, law, and covenant, sit down in that which must have an end, and which made nothing perfect.

"Thirdly, They that sit down in the apostasy that hath got up since the Apostles' days, sit down in spiritual Sodom and Egypt; and are drinking of the whore's cup, under the beast's and dragon's power.

"Fourthly, They that sit down in the state in which Adam was before he fell, sit down in that which may be fallen from; for he fell from that state, though it was perfect.

"Fifthly, They that sit down in the prophets, sit down in that which must be fulfilled; and they that sit down in the fellowship of water, bread, and wine, these being temporal things, they sit down in that which is short of Christ, and of His baptism.

"Sixthly, To sit down in a profession of all the Scriptures, from Genesis to the Revelations, and not be in the power and Spirit which those were in that gave them forth; -- that was to be turned away from by them that came into the power and Spirit which those were in that gave forth the Scriptures.

"Seventhly, They that sit down in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, sit down in Him that never fell, nor ever changed."

After this meeting was over, and most of the Friends gone away, as I was walking in John Crook's garden, there came a party of horse, with a constable, to seize me. I heard them ask, "Who is in the house?" Somebody made answer that I was there. They said that I was the man they looked for; and went forthwith into the house, where they had many words with John Crook and some few Friends that were with him. But the Lord's power so confounded them that they came not into the garden to look for me; but went their way in a rage.

When I came into the house, Friends were very glad to see that I had escaped them. Next day I passed thence; and, after I had visited Friends in several places, came to London, the Lord's power accompanying me, and bearing me up in His service.

asterix During the time I was at London I had many services laid upon me, for it was a time of much suffering. I was moved to write to Oliver Cromwell, and lay before him the sufferings of Friends both in this nation and in Ireland. There was also a talk about this time of making Cromwell king; whereupon I was moved to go to him and warn him against accepting it; and of diverse dangers which, if he did not avoid them, would, I told him, bring shame and ruin upon himself and his posterity. He seemed to take well what I said to him, and thanked me; yet afterwards I was moved to write to him more fully concerning that matter.

About this time the Lady Claypole (so called) was sick, and much troubled in mind, and could receive no comfort from any that came to her. When I heard of this I was moved to write to her.[144]

About this time came forth a declaration from Oliver Cromwell, the Protector, for a collection towards the relief of diverse Protestant churches, driven out of Poland; and of twenty Protestant families, driven out of the confines of Bohemia. And there having been a like declaration published some time before, to invite the nation to a day of solemn fasting and humiliation, in order to a contribution being made for the suffering Protestants of the valleys of Lucerne, Angrona, etc., who were persecuted by the Duke of Savoy,[145] I was moved to write to the Protector and chief magistrates on this occasion, both to show them the nature of a true fast (such as God requires and accepts), and to make them sensible of their injustice and self-condemnation in blaming the Papists for persecuting the Protestants abroad, while they themselves, calling themselves Protestants, were at the same time persecuting their Protestant neighbours and friends at home.

Diverse times, both in the time of the Long Parliament and of the Protector (so called) and of the Committee of Safety, when they proclaimed fasts, I was moved to write to them, and tell them their fasts were like unto Jezebel's; for commonly, when they proclaimed fasts, there was some mischief contrived against us. I knew their fasts were for strife and debate, to smite with the fist of wickedness; as the New England professors soon after did; who, before they put our Friends to death, proclaimed a fast also.

Now it was a time of great suffering; and many Friends being in prisons, many other Friends were moved to go to the Parliament, to offer themselves up to lie in the same prisons where their friends lay, that those in prison might go forth, and not perish in the stinking jails. This we did in love to God and our brethren, that they might not die in prison; and in love to those that cast them in, that they might not bring innocent blood upon their own heads, which we knew would cry to the Lord, and bring His wrath, vengeance, and plagues upon them.

But little favour could we find from those professing Parliaments; instead thereof, they would rage, and sometimes threaten Friends that attended them, to whip and send them home. Then commonly soon after the Lord would turn them out, and send them home; who had not an heart to do good in the day of their power. But they went not off without being forewarned; for I was moved to write to them, in their several turns, as I did to the Long Parliament, unto whom I declared, before they were broken up, "that thick darkness was coming over them all, even a day of darkness that should be felt."

asterix And because the Parliament that now sat was made up mostly of high professors, who, pretending to be more religious than others, were indeed greater persecutors of those that were truly religious, I was moved to send them the following lines, as a reproof of their hypocrisy:[146]

"O friends, do not cloak and cover yourselves; there is a God that knoweth your hearts, and that will uncover you. He seeth your way. 'Wo be unto him that covereth, but not with my Spirit, saith the Lord.' Do ye act contrary to the law, and then put it from you! Mercy and true judgment ye neglect. Look, what was spoken against such. My Saviour spoke against such; 'I was sick, and ye visited me not; I was hungry, and ye fed me not; I was a stranger, and ye took me not in; I was in prison, and ye visited me not.' But they said, 'When saw we thee in prison, and did not come to thee?' 'Inasmuch as ye did it not unto one of these little ones, ye did it not unto me.' Friends, ye imprison them that are in the life and power of Truth, and yet profess to be the ministers of Christ; but if Christ had sent you, ye would bring out of prison, out of bondage, and receive strangers. Ye have lived in pleasure on the earth, and been wanton; ye have nourished your hearts, as in a day of slaughter; ye have condemned and killed the just, and he doth not resist you. G. F."

After this, as I was going out of town, having two Friends with me, when we were little more than a mile out of the city, there met us two troopers belonging to Colonel Hacker's regiment, who took me, and the Friends that were with me, and brought us back to the Mews, and there kept us prisoners. But the Lord's power was so over them that they did not take us before any officer; but shortly after set us at liberty again.

asterix The same day, taking boat, I went to Kingston, and thence to Hampton Court, to speak with the Protector about the sufferings of Friends. I met him riding in Hampton Court Park, and before I came to him, as he rode at the head of his life-guard, I saw and felt a waft [or apparition] of death go forth against him; and when I came to him he looked like a dead man.

After I had laid the sufferings of Friends before him, and had warned him, according as I was moved to speak to him, he bade me come to his house. So I returned to Kingston, and next day went to Hampton Court, to speak further with him. But when I came he was sick, and Harvey,[147] who was one that waited on him, told me the doctors were not willing I should speak with him. So I passed away, and never saw him more.[148]

From Kingston I went to Isaac Penington's,[149] in Buckinghamshire, where I had appointed a meeting, and the Lord's Truth and power were preciously manifested amongst us. After I had visited Friends in those parts, I returned to London, and soon after went into Essex, where I had not been long before I heard that the Protector was dead, and his son Richard made Protector in his room. Thereupon I came up to London again.

Before this time the church faith (so called) was given forth, which was said to have been made at the Savoy in eleven days' time.[150] I got a copy before it was published, and wrote an answer to it; and when their book of church faith was sold in the streets, my answer to it was sold also. This angered some of the Parliament men, so that one of them told me, "We must have you to Smithfield." I told him, "I am above your fires, and fear them not." And, reasoning with him, I wished him to consider, had all people been without a faith these sixteen hundred years, that now the priests must make them one? Did not the apostle say that Jesus was the author and finisher of their faith? And since Christ Jesus was the author of the Apostles' faith, of the Church's faith in primitive times, and of the martyrs' faith, should not all people look unto Him to be the author and finisher of their faith, and not to the priests? Much work we had about the priest-made faith.

There was great persecution in many places, both by imprisoning, and by breaking up of meetings. At a meeting about seven miles from London, the rude people usually came out of several parishes round about, to abuse Friends, and often beat and bruised them exceedingly. One day they abused about eighty Friends that went to that meeting out of London, tearing their coats and cloaks from off their backs, and throwing them into ditches and ponds; and when they had besmeared them with dirt, they said they looked like witches.

The next First-day I was moved of the Lord to go to that meeting, though I was then very weak. When I came there I bade Friends bring a table, and set it in the close, where they used to meet, to stand upon. According to their wonted course, the rude people came; and I, having a Bible in my hand, showed them theirs and their teachers' fruits; and the people became ashamed, and were quiet.

But it was a time of great sufferings; for, besides imprisonments, through which many died, our meetings were greatly disturbed. They have thrown rotten eggs and wild-fire into our meetings, and brought in drums beating, and kettles to make noises with, that the Truth might not be heard; and, among these, the priests were as rude as any, as may be seen in the book of the fighting priests, wherein a list is given of some priests that had actually beaten and abused Friends.

Many Friends were brought prisoners to London, to be tried before the Committee; where Henry Vane, being chairman, would not suffer Friends to come in, except they would put off their hats.[151] But at last the Lord's power came over him, so that, through the mediation of others, they were admitted. Many of us having been imprisoned upon contempts (as they called them) for not putting off our hats, it was not a likely thing that Friends, who had suffered so long for it from others, should put off their hats to him. But the Lord's power came over all, and wrought so that several were set at liberty by them.

I wrote to Oliver several times, and let him know that while he was persecuting God's people, they whom he accounted his enemies were preparing to come upon him. When some forward spirits that came amongst us would have bought Somerset-House, that we might have meetings in it, I forbade them to do so: for I then foresaw the King's coming in again. Besides, there came a woman to me in the Strand, who had a prophecy concerning King Charles's coming in, three years before he came: and she told me she must go to him to declare it. I advised her to wait upon the Lord, and keep it to herself; for if it should be known that she went on such a message, they would look upon it to be treason -- but she said she must go, and tell him that he should be brought into England again.

I saw her prophecy was true, and that a great stroke must come upon them in power; for they that had then got possession were so exceeding high, and such great persecution was acted by them, who called themselves saints, that they would take from Friends their copyhold lands, because they could not swear in their courts.

Sometimes when we laid these sufferings before Oliver Cromwell, he would not believe it. Therefore Thomas Aldam and Anthony Pearson were moved to go through all the jails in England, and to get copies of Friends' commitments under the jailer's hands, that they might lay the weight of their sufferings upon Oliver Cromwell. And when he would not give order for the releasing of them, Thomas Aldam was moved to take his cap from off his head, and to rend it in pieces before him, and to say unto him, "So shall thy government be rent from thee and thy house."

Another Friend also, a woman, was moved to go to the Parliament (that was envious against Friends) with a pitcher in her hand, which she broke into pieces before them, and told them that so should they be broken to pieces: which came to pass shortly after.

In my great suffering and travail of spirit for the nation, being grievously burdened with their hypocrisy, treachery, and falsehood, I saw God would bring that over them which they had been above; and that all must be brought down to that which convinced them, before they could get over that bad spirit within and without: for it is the pure, invisible Spirit, that doth and only can work down all deceit in people.

Now was there a great pother made about the image or effigy of Oliver Cromwell lying in state; men standing and sounding with trumpets over his image, after he was dead. At this my spirit was greatly grieved, and the Lord, I found, was highly offended.

About this time great stirs were in the nation, the minds of people being unsettled. Much plotting and contriving there was by the several factions, to carry on their several interests. And a great care being upon me, lest any young or ignorant people, that might sometimes come amongst us, should be drawn into that snare, I was moved to give forth an epistle[152] as a warning unto all such.

Chapter Thirteen ...>>

Notes and Links

[141] There were few novel experiences on the way from Scotland to Bedfordshire. At Nottingham he had a controversy with Rice Jones, an opposer of the earlier visit. He pointed out that many of Rice Jones's followers "were become the greatest foot-ball players and wrestlers in the whole country," which is an interesting comment on the ministry of Rice Jones!

[142] "John Crook's House" was at Luton, in Bedfordshire. This is among the first of the great national general meetings out of which came in course of development the present London Yearly Meeting of Friends. The first general meeting was held at Swannington in Leicestershire in 1654. Isaac Penington was convinced at this meeting. He tells us that he "felt the healings drop upon his soul from under His wings."

[143] The sentence means: "I felt called to set forth the significance of various religious states and the things to which they lead."

[144] Here is a long extract from the letter to Lady Claypole, Cromwell's daughter, who died soon after this time:

    "Keep in the fear of the Lord God; that is the Word of the Lord unto thee. For all these things happen to thee for thy good, and for the good of those concerned for thee, to make you know yourselves and your own weakness, that ye may know the Lord's strength and power, and may trust in Him. Let the time past be sufficient to every one, who in anything hath been lifted up in transgression out of the power of the Lord; for He can bring down and abase the mighty, and lay them in the dust of the earth. Therefore, all keep low in His fear, that thereby ye may receive the secrets of God and His wisdom, may know the shadow of the Almighty, and sit under it in all tempests, storms, and heats. For God is a God at hand, and the Most High rules in the children of men. This is the word of the Lord God unto you all; what the Light doth make manifest and discover, as temptations, distractions, confusions, do not look at these temptations, confusions, corruptions, but at the Light which discovers them and makes them manifest; and with the same Light you may feel over them, to receive power to stand against them. The same Light which lets you see sin and transgression, will let you see the covenant of God, which blots out your sin and transgression, which gives victory and dominion over it, and brings into covenant with God. For looking down at sin, corruption, and distraction, ye are swallowed up in it; but looking at the Light, which discovers them, ye will see over them. That will give victory, and ye will find grace and strength; there is the first step to peace. That will bring salvation; by it ye may see to the beginning, and the 'Glory that was with the Father before the world began'; and come to know the Seed of God, which is the heir of the promise of God, and of the world which hath no end; and which bruises the head of the serpent, who stops people from coming to God. That ye may feel the power of an endless life, the power of God which is immortal, which brings the immortal soul up to the immortal God, in whom it doth rejoice. So in the name and power of the Lord Jesus Christ, God Almighty strengthen thee.

This note follows the letter:

    "When the foregoing paper was read to Lady Claypole, she said, it stayed her mind for the present. Afterwards many Friends got copies of it, both in England and Ireland, and read it to people that were troubled in mind; and it was made useful for the settling of the minds of several."

[145] This was the persecution which called forth Milton's great sonnet:

"Avenge, O Lord! thy slaughtered saints whose bones
Lie scattered on the Alpine mountains cold."

[146] This was Cromwell's Second Parliament.

[147] Harvey was "groom of the bed chamber."

[148] This visit of Fox to Cromwell is treated in Carlyle's Oliver Cromwell, Vol. IV., pp. 199, 200. Oliver Cromwell died September 3d, 1658. This "waft" or whiff of death which Fox felt was not the only forewarning of his end which came to Friends. A letter was delivered into Cromwell's hand a month before his death, which contained these words: "If thou continueth in thy oppression, the Lord will suddenly smite thee." See Burrough's "Good Counsel and Advice Rejected by Disobedient Men."

[149] Isaac Penington was one of the finest, richest spirits that came under the influence of Fox. He was highest in social rank of all the early Friends, and after Fox himself the best exponent of the fundamental Quaker idea.

[150] This "Church-faith (so-called)" was a "Declaration of the Faith and Order owned and practiced in the Congregational Churches in England: Agreed upon and consented unto by their Elders and messengers in their meeting at the Savoy, October 12th, 1658." Fox's reply has the following title: "Something in Answer to that Book called, The Church-Faith: Set forth by Independants (sic) and others; agreed upon by Divine messengers at the Savoy in London."

[151] From being Cromwell's most intimate friend Sir Harry Vane had become his most fearless opposer, and an advocate of extreme republicanism. After the downfall of Richard Cromwell, Vane had a brief return to influence and power. In September, 1659, he was made President of the Council, and was in this position the executive head of the nation in civil affairs. This episode must, therefore, be dated in the autumn of 1659.

[152] This epistle begins: "All Friends everywhere keep out of plots and bustling and the arm of flesh." A little later he writes again:

"Stand in the fear and dread of the Lord God; His power, life, light, seed and wisdom, by which ye may take away the occasion of wars, and so know a kingdom which hath no end, and fight for that with spiritual weapons, which takes away the occasion of the carnal; and there gather men to war, as many as ye can, and set up as many as ye can with these weapons. G. F."