« PreviousContinue »
the purity of his religion, and was an ornament to his profession, After ministerial services of twelve years, he fell into a decline, and departed in the arms of his friends, as one falling into a deep sleep, full of consolation, exhorting others to be faithful to God, and have a single eye to his glory,” expressing his own confidence that “the majesty of God was with him, and his crown of life upon him,” at the age of thirty-five years and two months.*
The last person to be noticed is Francis Howgill, a principal as well as early promulgator of the doctrine of the Quakers, and a valuable member of their community. Ho was a native of Westmoreland, and received his education, for the priest's office in the church, at the university; but, being scrupulous of complying with the ceremonies, he withdrew from the national church, and joined the Independents, and was an eminent preacher among them, laborious and zealous as a minister, and esteemed for his virtue and exemplary conversation. In 1652, he became a proselyte to the doctrines of George Fox, on hearing him at Firbank-chapel. He was, soon after this, sent, with James Naylor, to the jail at Appleby. In 1654, he and Edward Burrough, in company with Anthony Pearson, travelled to London, and were the first of this society who held meetings in that city, and by whose preaching many there were brought over to the same profession. While he was there, , he went to court to intercede with Oliver Cromwell, that a stop might be put to the persecution of the members of his society, and he wrote also to the protector, on the same subject, in a plain and bold strain, but without any good effects. It does not appear, that they met with any personal molestations in the metropolis ; and when they had gathered and settled meetings there, they went to Bristol. Multitudes flocked to hear them, and many embraced their doctrine. The clergy were alarmed, and they were summoned before the magistrates, and were commanded to leave the city immediately. To this order they answered : 66 Wecame not in the will of man, nor stand in the will of man, but when he shall move us to depart who moved us to come hither, we shall obey; we are free-born Englishmen, and have served the commonwealth faithfully, being free in the sight of God from the transgression of any law; to
* Gough, vol. 2. p. 231-236.
your commandments we cannot be obedient; but if by violence you put us out of the city, and have power to do it, we cannot resist.” Having said this, they went out of the court, but tarried in the city, preaching as before, for some time. * In 1663, Francis Howgill was summoned before the justices, as he was in the market-place at Kendal on his business; and, for refusing the oath of allegiance, was committed to prison till the summer assizes, at which the oath was again tendered to him, and upon refusal an indictment was drawn up against him, which he traversed. But as he would not enter into bond for his good behaviour, which he considered as a tacit acquiescence in the charge of ill-behaviour, and a bar to attendance on meetings, he was recommitted to prison. At the spring assizes he was brought to bis trial; when, under a rigorous sentence of premunire, he was sent back to the prison, where he remained, till released by death, for nearly five years, deprived of every comfort and convenience his persecutors could take from him. He died, after a sickness of nine days, the 20th of January, 1688–89. During his confinement he evidenced the peaceful and even tenor of his soul by his patience; and preserved to the last an amiable equanimity, which had characterized him through life, the serenity of his conscience bearing bim superior to his sufferings and to the fear of death. He wrote a copious treatise against oaths, wherein he maintained the unlawfulness of swearing under the gospel. His virtues, innocence, and integrity of life, were conspicuous. He was generally respected by those who knew him ; bis sufferings were commiserated; and the unmerited enmity and cruelty of his persecutors condemned. Several of the principal inhabitants of Appleby, and particularly the mayor, visited him in his sickness; and some of them praying that God might speak peace to his soul, he answered, “He hath done it.” He also expressed himself thus: “ That he was content, and ready to die; praising the Almighty for the many sweet enjoyments and refreshing seasons he had been favoured with on that his prison bed, whereon he lay, freely forgiving all who had a hand in his restraint." A few hours before he departed, he said, “I have sought the way of the Lord from a child, and lived innocently as among men ; and if
* Gough, vol. 1. p. 112. 126. 144, &c.
any inquire concerning my latter end, let them know, that I die in the faith in which I lived and suffered for." After these words, he uttered some others in prayer to God, and so finisbed his life in perfect peace, in the fiftieth year of
Mr. Gough has preserved a letter of useful instructions, addressed to his daughter, which he left behind him. His will, made some time before his decease, bequeathed out of his real estate, his personal having been forfeited to the king, a legacy to his poor friends in those parts where he lived, and a token of his affectionate remembrance to several of his brethren and fellow-labourers in the ministry.*
FROM THE DECLARATION OF INDULGENCE TO THE
REVOLUTION. A. D. 1674-1688.
When the king published his declaration of indulgence, the Quakers, who did not rank with any political party, merely to enjoy the ease and liberty to which peaceable and virtuous subjects have a right, accepted the protection it afforded. But those who were at liberty, from that spirit of sympathy and brotherly concern which prevades the society, could not enjoy their own exemption from penal statutes, without exerting themselves for the relief of their brethren who had been, for several years, kept immured in uncomfortable prisons. George Whitehead, Thomas Moor, and Thomas Green, invited by the present disposition of government, waited on the king and council to solicit the discharge of their friends, who, convicted on transportation, or on premunire, or for fines, confiscations, or fees, were still in prison : and they were so successful as to obtain the king's letters patent, under the great seal, for their pardon and discharge. In the accomplishing of this business, a difficulty arose from the amount of the fees to be paid in the sundry offices through which the letters patent would pass, as up
* Gough. vol. 2. p. 31. 96-108, and 236--241.
wards of four hundred persons would be included in them.* But when the lord-keeper, sir Orlando Bridgeman, generously and voluntarily remitted his fees, they applied to the king to moderate the rest, who accordingly issued his order, “that the pardon, though comprehending a great number of persons, do yet pass as one pardon, and pay but as one.”
Their success gave them an opportunity to shew the uni. versality of their charity to other dissenters, many of whom were confined in prison, and whose solicitors, observing the happy issue of the Quakers' suit, applied to Whitehead, for his advice and assistance, to have the names of their own friends inserted in the same instrument. In consequence of his advice they petitioned the king, and obtained his warrant for that purpose. " This I was glad of (says Whitehead), that they partook of the benefit through our industry. And indeed I was never backward to give any of them my advice for their help, when any of them in straits have applied for it; our being of different judgments and societies did not abate my sympathy or charity, even to-, wards then who, in some cases, had been our opposers.”, The Quakers were thus freed, for a time, from the severities of persecution. The public testimony which they continued, in the severest times, to bear to the principles they received as truth, and the firmness with which they held their meetings at the appointed times and places, or, when kept out of their places of worship by force, assembled in the streets, baffled the scheme of establishing uniformity, countenanced and assisted by the temporizing conduct of other dissenters, and abated the heat of persecution, and blunted the edge of the sword before it reached the other sects; the more ingenuous of whom, therefore, esteemed their intrepidity, regarded them with gratitude as the bul-. wark that kept off the force of the stroke from themselves, and prayed that they might be preserved steadfast, and enabled to break the strength of the enemy. Some of the Baptists especially expressed a high opinion both of the people and their principles, which sustained them in undergoing sufferings that others thought of with terror.t
When the revocation of the indulgence, and the displeasure of the court against the dissenters, let loose the whole
* The patent, when made out, contained eleven skins of vellum.
† Gouglı’s History of the Quakers, vol. 2. VOL. V.
tribe of informers, and gave fresh spirit to persecuting magistrates; prosecutions, in every mode of distress, were renewed against this people, at the capricious will of every justice. Severe proceedings against them were grounded on the statute of premunire of James I. for refusing to swear; on the obsolete statute of 201. per month, for absence from the parish-church, which penalty, or two-thirds of a person's estate, were seized by exchequer process; and for tithes, to excommunication and procuring writs de excommunicato capiendo to be issued, to throw them into prison. They became a prey to idle and profligate informers, encouraged and instigated by their superiors. And, instead of obtaining durable and effectual relief, their sufferings became heavier and more aggravated during the remainder of this reign to the end of it.*
In 1675, William Hall of Congleton, being fined 201. for a meeting at his house, had his house broken open, and two ,
, cart-loads of goods, to the worth of 401. besides a mare, were carried away. About the same time cattle and goods to the value of 1001. were taken from sundry persons in and about Nantwich; and from one person the bed on which he lay, and even the dunghil in his yard.+
In the next year, prosecutions on the conventicle act subsided in London, but the rigorous enforcing of the ecclesiastical laws was rarely or never suspended. The number plundered, excommunicated, imprisoned, and of those who died in prison, was too large to be recited. I But while the penal laws were suffered to lie dormant in London, they were enforced with rigorous severity in other parts of the nation. In one instance a poor man, with a wife and five children, had little to pay the fine for being at a meeting, but his bed, which the compassion of the officers would not permit them to seize : but the obdurate magistrate commanded them to take it. The wife, endeavouring afterward to maintain her children by baking a little bread, and selling it in the market, it was seized at one time to the value of nineteen-pence, and at another to the value of fourteen-pence. From another person for a a fine of 77. goods to the worth of near 181. were taken. The distresses made this year in Nottinghamshire, upon the Gough, vol. 2. p. 399-397.
+ Ibid. p. 406. $ Ibid. p. 414.
g Ibid. p. 416, 417.