« PreviousContinue »
three thousand sixty and eight persons. Besides this, our meetings are daily broken up by men with clubs and arms, (though we meet peaceably, according to the practice of God's people in the primitive times) and our friends are thrown into waters, and trod upon, till the very blood gusheth out of them; the number of which abuses can hardly be uttered. Now this we would have of thee, to set them at liberty that lie in prison in the names of the Commonwealth, and of the two protectors, and them that lie in thy own name, for speaking the truth, and for good emcience muke, who have not lifted up an hand against thee nor any man; and that the meetings of our friends, who meet peaceably together in the fear of God, to worelop him, thay not be broken up by rude people with their cluire, and swords, and staves. One of the greatest things that we have suffered for formerly, was, because we could not swear to the protectors and all the changeable governments, and now we are imprisoned because we cannot take the oath of allegiance. Now, if our yea be not yea, and nay, nay, to, thee, and to all men upon the earth, let us suffer as much for breaking of that, as others do for breaking an oath. We have suffered these many years, both in lives and estates, under these changeable governments, because we cannot swear, but obey Christ's doctrine, who commands, we should not swear at all, (Matth. v. Jam. v.) and this we seal with our lives and estates, with our yea and nay, according to the doetrine of Christ. Hearken to these things, and so consider them in the wisdom of God, that by it such actions may be stopped, thou that hast the government, and mayest do it. We desire that all that are in prison may be set at liberty, and that for the time to come they may not be imprisoned for conscience and for the truth's sake; and if thou question the innocency of their sufferings, let them and their accusers be brought up before thee, and we shall produce a more particular and full account of their sufferings if required.'
G. F. & R. H.
I mentioned before, how that in the year 1650, I was kept prisoner six months in the house of correction at Derby, and that the keeper of the prison being a cruel man, and one that had dealt very wickedly by me, was smitten in himself, the plagues and terrors of the Lord falling upon him because thereof; this man being afterwards convinced of truth, wrote me the following letter :
Having such a convenient messenger, I could do no less than give thee an account of my present condition, remembering, that to the first awakening of me to a sense of life and of the inward principle, God was pleased to make use of thee as an instrument; so that sometimes I am taken with admiration that it should come by such a means as it did, that is to say, that Providence should order thee to be my prisoner, to give me my first real sight of the truth; it makes me many times to think of the jailer's conversion by the apostles. O happy George Fox! that first breathed that breath of life within the walls of my babitation ! Notwithstanding my outward losses are since that time such, that I am become nothing in the world, yet I hope I shall find that all these light afflictions, which are but for a moment, will work for me a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory. They have taken all from me; and now instead of keeping a prison, I am rather waiting when I shall become a prisoner myself. Pray for me that my faith fail not, but that I may hold out to the death that I may receive a crown of life. I earnestly desire to hear from thee, and of thy condition, which would very much rejoice me. Not having else at present but my kind love unto thee, and all Christian friends with thee, in haste, I rest,
Thine, in Christ Jesus,
Thomas Sharman.' Derby, the 22d of the
4th month, 1662.
T'here were two of our friends in prison in the Inqui. sition at Malta; they were both women; the name of the one was Katharine Evans, and of the other Sarah Chevers. I was told that one, called the Lord D’Aubeny, could procure their liberty, wherefore I went to him; and having informed him concerning their imprisonment, desired him to write to the magistrates there for their release. He readily promised me he would, and said if I would come again within a month, he would tell me of their discharge. I went again about that time, and he said he thought his letters had miscarried, because he had received no answer. But he promised he would write again, and he did so; and thereupon they were both set at liberty.
With this great man I had a great deal of reasoning about religion, and he did confess that Christ hath enlightened every man that cometh into the world, with his spiritual light, and that
he had tasted death for every man, and that the grace of God, which brings salvation, hath appeared to all men, and that it would teach them and bring their salvation, if they did obey it. Then I asked him what would they (the papists) do with all their relicks and images, if they did own and believe in this light, and receive the grace to teach them and bring their salvation ? And he said, those things were but policies to keep people in subjection. Very free he was in discourse, and I never heard a papist confess so much as he did. Now though several about the court began to grow loving to friends, yet the persecution was very hot, and several friends died in prison. Whereupon I gave forth a little paper concerning the grounds and rise of persecution, which was thus:
• All the sufferings of the people of God in all ages were, because they could not join to the national religions' and worships, which men had made and set up, and because they would not forsake God's religion and his wor. ship, which he had set up. And ye may see through all chronicles and histories how that the priests joined with the powers of the nations; the magistrates, and soothsayers, and fortune tellers, all these joined against the people of God, and did imagine vain things against them in their counsels. And when the Jews did badly, they turned against Moses; and when the Jewish kings transgressed the law of God, then they persecuted the prophets, as may be seen in the prophets' writings. And when Christ the substance came, then the Jews persecuted Christ and his apostles and disciples; and when the Jews had not power enough of themselves to persecute answerable to their wills, then they got the heathen gentiles to help them against Christ, and against his apostles and disciples, who were in the spirit and power of Christ.'
Now after I had made some stay in London, and had cleared myself of those services that at that time lay upon me there, I went into the country, having with me Alexander Parker and John Stubbs (who was lately come back from Alexandria in Egypt, as was mentioned before.). We travelled down through the countries, visiting friends' meetings till we came to Bristol. When we were come thither, we understood that the officers were likely to come and break up the meeting. Yet on the first-day we went to the meeting at Broadmead, and Alexander Parker standing up first to declare, while he was speaking the
officers came up and took him away. After he was gone I stood up in the eternal power of God, and declared the everlasting truth of the Lord God, and the heavenly power came over all, and the meeting was quiet the rest of the time and broke up peaceably, I tarried till the first-day following, visiting friends and being visited by friends. On the first-day in the morning several friends came to me to Edward Pyot's house (where I lay the night before) and used great endeavours to persuade me not to go to the meeting that day, for the magistrates, they said, had threatened to take me, and had raised the trained bands. I wished them to go their way to the meeting, not telling them what I intended to do, but I told Edward Pyot I intended to go to the meeting, and he sent his son with me to shew me the way from his house by the fields. As I went I met divers friends who were coming to me to prevent my going, and did what they could to stop me : what, said one, wilt thou go into the mouth of the beast ! ! Wilt thou go into the mouth of the dragon, said another. But I put them by and went on. When I came into the meeting Margaret Thomas was speaking, and when she had done I stood up. Now I saw a concern and fear upon friends for me, but the power of the Lord, in which I de, clared, soon struck the fear out of them; and life sprang, and an heavenly glorious meeting we had. After I had cleared myself of what was upon me from the Lord to the meeting, I was moved to pray; and after I had prayed and was stept down, I was moved to stand up again, and tell friends now they might see there was a God in Israel that could deliver. A very large full meeting this was, and very hot; but truth was over all, and the life was up, which carried through all, and the meeting broke up in peace. For the officers and soldiers had been breaking up another meeting, which had taken up their
time, so that our meeting was ended before they came. But I understood afterwards they were in a great rage that they had missed me, for they were heard to say one to another before, I'll warrant we shall have him ; but the Lord
prevented them. I went from the meeting to Joan Hily's, where many friends came to see me, rejoicing and blessing God for our deliverance. In the evening I had a fine fresh meeting among friends at a friend's house over the water, where friends were much refreshed in the Lord. After this I stayed most part of that week in Bristol, and at Edward Pyot's. Edward was brought so low and weak with an ague, that when I came first thither, he wag looked upon as a dying man; but it pleased the Lord to
raise him up again, so that before I went away his ague left him, and he was finely well.
Now having been two first-days together at the meeting at Broadmead, and feeling my spirit clear of Bristol, I went next first-day to a meeting in the country not far from Bristol. And after the meeting was over, sonie friends that came from Bristol, told me that the soldiers that day bad beset the meeting-house round at Bristol, and then went up, saying they would be sure to have me now; but when they came up and found me not there, they were in a great rage, and kept the friends in the meeting-house most part of the day before they would let them go home, and queried of them which way I was gone, and how they might send after me; for the mayor, they said, would fain have spoken with me.
But I had a vision of a great mastiff dog that would have bitten me, but I put one hand above his jaws, and the other hand below, and tore his jaws to pieces. So the Lord by his power tore their power to pieces, and made way for me to escape them. Then passed I through the countries, visiting friends in Wiltshire and Berkshire, till I came to London, and had great meetings amongst friends as I went; and the Lord's power was over all, and a blessed time it was for the spreading of his glorious truth. It was indeed the immediate hand and power of the Lord that did preserve me out of their hands at Bristol, and over the heads of all our persecutors, and the Lord alone is worthy of all the glory, who did uphold and preserve for his name and truth's sake.
At London I staid not long this time, but was drawn in my spirit to visit friends northward, as far as Leicestershire, John Stubbs being with me. So we travelled down through the countries, having meetings amongst friends as we went, and at Skegby we had a great meeting. Thence passing on, we came to a place called Barnet-bills, where lived then one captain Brown, a baptist, whose wife was convinced of truth. This captain Brown, after the act for breaking up meetings came forth, being afraid lest his wife should go to meetings and be cast into prison, left his house at Barrow, and took a place on these hills, saying his wife should not go to prison. And this being a free place, many, both priests and others, got thither as well as he. But he who would neither stand to truth himself nor suffer his wife, was in this place where he thought to be safe, found out by the Lord, whose hand fell heavy upon him for his unfaithfulness, so that he was sorely plagued, and grievously judged in himself for flying and drawing bis wife into that private place. We went to see his wife,