Site Editor's Preface
Will Caton (1636 - 1665) as a boy was selected to be a school-mate and then a live-in companion of Margaret and Judge Fell's son. The Fell's were a prominent and wealthy family in Northern England, Judge Fell being a member of several Parliaments and a circuit court judge. Will Caton soon became a second son to the family, later serving as a secretary to Margaret Fell. When George Fox visited the Fell's home, Swarthmore, in 1652, Will, along with the rest of the family, were convinced of the truth. Swarthmore became the cradle of Quakerism, and Will quickly matured where many of the giants of the early Quaker movement came for rest, recovery from persecution, and spiritual growth. In this environment, he grew into a maturity far beyond his natural age, and quickly became a minister of the word of life at age eighteen. Walking on foot, he first ministered in England, but then spent most of his time in the Low Countries of Europe - the Netherlands and parts of Germany. He was wonderfully gifted by the Holy Spirit with words spoken from the Lord, which convinced thousands. His life was cut short, dying at age twenty-nine.
Perhaps the greatest testimony to his work was that George Fox had this work translated into Dutch, paid for its printing from his personal funds, and then distributed the book throughout the Low Countries.
George Fox's testimony concerning William Caton
IN the year 1663, William Caton went to Holland, and not long after he had finished his testimony there, he died; and soon after that, his wife died; and he left this journal of passages behind him, which being sent to me, I thought fit to put it in print and to recommend it to all that knew him. For after he was converted, he preached the gospel of Christ, and strengthened his brethren; and you may see he was one like the converted scribes in the kingdom of God, which bring forth things new and old. He was like unto Timothy, who was an example both in innocence, simplicity, and purity in his life and conversation, after he was converted; for they did preach, as well as his doctrine, in the churches of Christ. And whereas many have made a boast and a talk of Truth in the beginning, who never knew what it was; in his narrative, you may see both an example and a testimony of Truth in the beginning, and how for many years he traveled many weary steps on foot, both in England, Scotland, and elsewhere, in the Lord's service. His innocent life preached both righteousness and truth wherever he came; and he was a good savor to God, and in the hearts of the people. He was one who had a care for God's glory and honor, and the spreading of the Truth and the prosperity of it; and in it he spent himself and finished his testimony; who, in his life time, wrote many precious epistles to Friends, besides several books. In his travels he had many trials and exercises by false brethren, backsliders, and apostates, besides his perils by the sea, and among the priests and professors; but the Lord with his eternal arm and power gave him dominion over all. As for his opposers, they withered and vanished away; and after he had finished his testimony, he died in the Lord, and is blessed, and rests from his labors, and his works follow him.
Gooses, [near Brentwood, Essex, from his son-in-law William Mead’s house] 4th of Sixth Month, 1688
LIFE OF WILLIAM CATON
The infinite mercy of the Lord God to him from
my very infancy —
THE God of my salvation has been pleased of his infinite love, to show mercy unto me from my very infancy unto this present day, and has through a secret hand preserved me from many of the evils in the world, which befall the children of men, and with which many of them are overcome. Yes, from my very childhood has he dealt exceeding gently, bountifully, and mercifully with me, and especially since he was pleased to make known his heavenly truth in me, and his eternal salvation to me. How should I therefore fail to show forth his praise, and to declare his wonderful works? [My praise] to the end, that others may learn to fear and know him, to serve and obey him, that their souls may receive mercy from him as I have done, and that they may praise and magnify him in the land of the living, - who is God over all, the creator of all things; to whom be glory, honor, and dominion forever and ever.
When I was a child I was nurtured and tutored with such fatherly care and motherly affection, as my parents at that day were endued with. While I was yet very young, my heart was inclining to wisdom and understanding; and being inspired with a divine principle, [the Holy Spirit] I did in those days sometimes feel the power of it overcoming my heart, and begetting tenderness in it towards my Creator, when I have stood musing upon his handiwork; and through this divine principle, I was much restrained from some vices to which children are prone. But, alas, I knew not, that what restrained me was within me, though I had a dread and fear upon me when I was liable to sin against my Creator; which now I know right well, came through the previously mentioned divine principle. I had also a fear upon me of reproof and chastisement from my parents, who according to their knowledge, endeavored to educate me in virtue and godliness; and therefore instructed me to pray morning and evening, to read often, and to go frequently to hear what they called the Word of God. Great was their care to bring me up in the fear of the Lord, according to their ability and understanding, as also in good fashion, as they called it, in the world; and therefore they educated me in such schools as the country there afforded, and that for many years.
When I was about fourteen years of age, my father took me to Judge Fell's, to learn with a kinsman, a priest, who was tutor to the judge's son; and thereby came to have an opportunity to be conversant with them that were great in the world. Through the mercy of the Lord, I behaved myself so well among them as to the outward, that I found favor among the whole family, even from the greatest to the least of them; and was in due time promoted to be companion night and day to the judge's son, and did eat as he did eat, and lodged as he lodged, and went after the same pleasure which he went to, as fishing, hunting, shooting, etc.
In that day my heart was affected with my condition; for as Providence had cast me into such a noble family, where there were such sweet children, with whose company I was more than a little affected; and in as much pleasure, ease and fullness, I lived with them, as my heart could well desire. There remained an integrity in my heart towards God, and often did I call upon his name. To that end, I would linger in the chamber, until the judge's son, with whom I lodged, was gone down, that afterwards I might go to prayer alone; for my soul desired to have the blessing and favor of the Lord, in which there was satisfaction to be found, but not in the pleasures which I followed, nor yet in the ease and fullness in which I lived.
After we had learned some time together in the judge's family, we were removed to a school in the country, at a place called Hawkshead; where I met with many temptations, and seldom good company, except those who were given to folly and wantonness. But the Lord was wonderfully gracious to me; and many times when I have deserved nothing but stripes from him, has he broken and overcome my heart with his divine love; so that I often stood admiring his wonderful mercy, his long-suffering, forbearance, and infinite goodness. For truly had his compassion failed, I might have been destroyed in the sins of my youth. But blessed be his name forever, he had mercy on me. As Providence ordered it, we did not stay long at that school, but returned to Judge Fell's, where it was with me as before mentioned, so that I began to see into the depth of what the world could afford.
Being then about fifteen years of age, my heart was much inclined after wisdom, as also to seek knowledge; for in that family there was a great profession. Those,who could speak of the Scripture, and could make repetitions of sermons, and paraphrase thereupon, were held in esteem. Therefore I endeavored much to retain the principles expounded, but when my memory would not serve me to do as some did in that particular, I used myself to write much after the priests; but that which I reaped thereby, could not give satisfaction to my soul, which at times hungered much after the Lord.
1652.-George Fox's first visit to Swarthmore;
the tendency of his doctrine-
IN the year 1652, about the middle of the fourth month, was that faithful messenger and servant of the Most High, George Fox, came among us, who declared unto us the way of life and peace. Of those in that family who believed his report, I was one, who came finally to be affected with his doctrine; though the first I did as much disdain his nonconformity to our fashions, customs, and salutations, as strangers at this day react to our nonconformity to them. Yet something in me loved him, and owned his testimony. I began to find in myself the truth of what he spoke for his doctrine tended very much to bring us to "the light, which Christ Jesus had enlightened us withal, which shined in our hearts, and convinced us of sin and evil;" and into love with that, and obedience to that, he sought to bring us, that thereby through the Son we might be brought into unity and covenant with the Lord.
In due time the witness of God was awakened in me, by which my sins were set in order before me; and it brought judgment and condemnation upon me by reason of them; but since I was like a wild heifer, unaccustomed to the yoke, I sought to get from under it. Which I often did, until I came to know something of the power of God, which brought that wild nature in me, which was unaccustomed to the yoke, into subjection. So good was the Lord to me, that I had not long heard the Truth, when I came to be a witness of the power of it in myself; by which the strong man in me was made to bow, and the keepers of the house to tremble.
At that time I had not left the school, but went with Judge Fell's son to it; and he being somewhat convinced of the same truth, and touched with the same power, it was the easier and the better for me. However, we were often wild, vain and wanton, and sported ourselves in folly, to the extinguishing of the good oftentimes in ourselves. But such was the love of God to me in those days, that I was as surely pursued with judgment, as I was overtaken with folly. Sometimes I would separate myself from the rest of my schoolfellows, and get retired into some place, where I might wait upon the Lord and ponder upon his marvelous works. When I was thus retired, and in singleness of heart waiting upon the Lord, I received refreshment from him; but when I was drawn aside through the provocation of my companion, or the temptations of the wicked one in myself, then was I troubled and disquieted in my heart.
In process of time my study became my burden for when I was so much in trouble through the condemnation that was upon me, I was so much the more incapable of making themes, Latin verses, etc.; neither was I able to pay the schoolmaster the trivial compliment of doffing my hat for I was then convinced in my conscience of the vanity of it. My special friend Margaret Fell, the judge's wife, took notice of my condition. She was unwilling to allow me to go to the school any longer than I wished. So she had me to stay at home to teach her children and to go with her when she went abroad, and to write for her, etc., which was a happy time for me. After I had left the school, I was very busy in writing precious and wholesome things pertaining to the Truth. I had many opportunities to converse with Friends, in whom the life of righteousness had begun to bud and spring forth, and who grew in love and unity. This greatly affected my soul, and I wished very much to be one with them in it; so that I might share with them in the life of righteousness, for my soul was delighted with it and in it, far beyond the pleasures and delights of this transitory world.
When I was about seventeen years of age, the power of the Lord God worked mightily and effectually in me, purging, cleansing, and sanctifying me; and then I began to see something of the glory of the ministry of condemnation, and of the goodness of the Word of life, which had become “as fire in my bones," and "as a sword and hammer in my heart." I began to be broken, melted and overcome with the love of God, which sprang up in my heart, and with the divine and precious promises that were confirmed to my soul. Oh! the preciousness and excellence of that day! Oh! the glory and the blessedness of that day! How, or where shall I demonstrate it; or by what means shall I explain it, that generations to come, and they that are yet unborn, might understand it, and give glory unto the Lord Jehovah?
Oh! the love that in that day abounded among us, especially in that family! The freshness of the power of the Lord God, which was then among us; and the zeal for Him and his truth, the comfort and refreshment which we had from his presence, - the nearness and dearness that were among us one towards another, - the openings and revelations which we then had! I confess I find myself insufficient to declare these things to the utmost; neither do I now intend to go about to describe them particularly; for then I might make a larger volume by much, than now I am intending; but, my heart is affected with the remembrance of them at this day.
In those days meetings were exceedingly precious to us, so much that several of us commonly spent some time every night in waiting upon the Lord; yes, often after the rest of the family had gone to bed. Oh! the comfort and refreshment which we had together, and the benefit which we reaped by it; how shall I declare it! For if we had suffered loss in the day-time, when we had been abroad about our business or the like, then we came in a great measure thus to be restored again, through the love, power, and mercy of our God, which abounded very much to us. However, sometimes I was deprived of that sweet society, when my heart was with them, through my going to my bed so early with the judge's son, with whom I then lodged. For a season he was tender and hopeful; but afterwards meeting with many temptations, his heart was drawn aside from the truth, and his mind ran after the delights and pleasures of this present world. When he transferred to another school, we came to be separated, which was at that time no disadvantage to me in one respect, though looked upon by some to be a disadvantage as to my outward preferment. But in that day I chose doing any kind of labor around the house, with the servants that were in the truth, than to enjoy the delights of this world with this son, or anyone else, for a season. For my delight was no longer, as it had been, in the vain, perishing, and transitory things of the world; but in the Lord, in his mercy and loving kindness, and to be with his people; for the sake of whose company I would have exposed myself to some pretty hard employment. Neither was it then too contemptible for me to become as Amos, a keeper of cattle, or as Elisha, to follow the plough; for indeed in those days I did enjoy and possess what made all things easy and light to me. And oh! the abundance of living refreshment, which I received from the Lord! It is hard for me to utter or declare the same to the utmost. I was often overcome with the love of my Father, which exceedingly broke and ravished my heart, and I know it was so with others of that family; and of the overflowings thereof we communicated one to another, to the comforting and refreshing one of another. We were willing to sympathize and bear one with one another, to be helpful one unto one another, and in true and tender love to watch one over one another. And, oh! the love, mercy, and power of God, which abounded to us, through us, and among us - who shall declare it? Thus that worthy family came to be so renowned in the nation, the fame of which spread much among Friends; and the power and presence of the Lord being so much there with us, it was as a means to induce many, even from afar, to come there. So that at one time there would be Friends from five or six counties; all which tended to augment my refreshment. By reason of my much writing, it came to pass that I especially was much conversant with them, and thereby I had a privilege beyond others of my fellow servants. I was frequently with dear George Fox, who, as a tender-hearted father, after he had begotten me through the gospel, sought to nurture me up in all wisdom, faithfulness, and righteousness, to the glory and praise of my heavenly father. On the other hand I was cherished, and encouraged in the way of life, by my entirely beloved friend, Margaret Fell, who as a tender-hearted nursing mother cared for me, and was as tender of me, as if I had been one of her own children. The kindness, the respect and friendship, which she showed me, ought never to be forgotten by me.
When I had thus plentifully reaped of the mercy of the Most High, and his power had wrought so effectually in me, to the redeeming of my soul from death, then did his Word of life begin to grow powerful in me; and seeing the darkness and ignorance so great, in which people were involved, my spirit was stirred within me, and came to be filled with love to their souls, and with zeal for God and his truth. About that time I began to know the motion of his power and the command of his Spirit; by which I came to be moved to go to the places of public worship, to declare against the deceit of the priests, and the sins of the people, and to warn all to repent; for I testified to them that the day of the Lord was coming. But oh! the weakness, the fear and trembling in which I went upon this message, — who shall declare it? How I pleaded with the Lord concerning this matter. For I looked upon my own weakness and insufficiency, and how unfit I was in my own apprehension, to encounter with opposers, who I knew would also despise my youth. However, whatever I alleged by way of reasoning against the Lord concerning this weighty matter, I could not be excused; but I must go, and declare whatHe should give me to speak; and his promise was, he would be with me.
When I saw it must be so, I put on courage in the name of the Lord; and having faith in him, which stood in his power, I next gave up to his will, and went in obedience to his motion. When I came to the place, behold, the consultations which before I had had, were gone, and the fear of man was departed from me; and strength, and courage, and boldness, and utterance were given me, so that I became, through him that strengthened me, a potent man rather than as a stripling, even in the face of the congregations. However, my testimony was little regarded by many, neither did they lay to heart what I declared among them. Some fell upon me, and abused me greatly; others pitied me and were much troubled for me; and sometimes they were much divided among themselves, for some were for me, and others against me. But in the midst of them the Lord was with me, and his mighty power did preserve me; and when I had cleared my conscience among them, I returned in much peace and joy in the Holy Ghost, for my reward was with me.
After the Lord had fitted me for his work as previously mentioned, I was labored much in going to steeple-houses, insomuch that there seldom passed a first-day of the week, but I was at one or another; and I was also often in markets, where I was moved to declare God's eternal truth, of which through his infinite mercy I had become his witness. Although when I went to such places as previously mentioned, I seldom knew what I would say until I came there; yet behold when I was to speak, I never lacked words or utterance to declare what the Lord had given me to publish. To the contrary, I often had fullness of words from Him to my great admiration. The beating, buffeting, stocking, stoning, with the many reproaches, which I went through in those days, were little to me; no, not to be compared to the refreshment which I had through the enjoyment of the life, power, and love, which the Father had revealed in me, and by which I was carried through them and over them all. By the more the Lord tried me in those days, the more I came to experience his loving kindness to me. After the Lord came to honor me with bearing his name, and accounted me worthy to bear my testimony, both in public and in private, to his eternal truth; I had much favor and respect from and among his people, whose love abounded much to me; and I being sensible thereof, was very much supported and strengthened thereby, in that service which God appointed for me, and called me to. When such service was over, I returned again to the place of my residence, where I was diligent in my employment, until the Lord ordered me to other service again, either to meetings abroad on the first-days of the week, or else to steeple-houses. The Lord was with me, and his word of life often passed powerfully through me, and never did I go about any service for the Lord, in which I was faithful, but I had always my reward with me.
When I returned again unto that honorable family, the place where I lived, (I mean Judge Fell's at Swarthmore, in Lancashire), then our refreshment was very great together in the Lord, and with rejoicing we spoke together of his wonderful works, which were very marvelous in our eyes. And after I had had many glorious days there, and seen many of the wonderful works of the Lord, in the fullness of time, according to the will of God, I was called out from among them, the Lord having other service for me elsewhere. When it was the will of the Lord that I should go, judge Fell was very against it, being then very unwilling to part with me; but his dear wife, who could not well give me up before, was then made willing freely to resign me to the will of the Lord, especially upon so honorable an account; for I left them not to go to serve other men, but to publish the name of the Lord, and to declare his eternal truth abroad.
1654. - Leaving Swarthmore he travels southward into
Warwickshire and to Norwich—
IT was in the year 1654, in the eleventh month, when I was about eighteen years of age, that I took my leave of that renowned family at Swarthmore. But, oh! the tears that were shed among us at our parting ;- the prayers and intercessions that were made to the Lord; and what deep impression our parting had upon our hearts, who can declare the same. So exceedingly were we united and bound up together, that it was very hard for us to part one with another. However, when we considered upon what account it was, and that notwithstanding our parting, we should enjoy one another in the Lord, then could we give up to the will of the Lord so much the better in the thing. Therefore according to the will of the Lord, in his name and power, I set my face southward; and visited Friends in Lancashire, and in some parts of Yorkshire and Derbyshire, which counties I passed through into Warwickshire, to a place called Badgley; where I met with many of the brethren, who dearly owned the power, and the motion of it, by which I was drawn forth into that glorious work. Being very sweetly refreshed together, and confirmed in the faith and power of God, and encouraged to go on in that glorious and honorable service, I took my leave of them, and went on in the name and power of the Lord towards Norwich in Norfolk, accompanied by another Friend.
Coming to Wellingborough in Northamptonshire, we found several there newly convinced of the Lord's truth, with whom we were much refreshed. Being there the first-day of the week, it was upon me to go to their steeple-house, where I had some liberty (but little) to declare the everlasting truth of God. After that I returned to the meeting of Friends, where the power and presence of the Lord God were with us; so that we had a very sweet, comfortable, and refreshing meeting. I and my companion were arrested, and in custody kept that night; but, the next day, as Providence ordered it, while the priest and some with him, as we were informed, had gone to get a warrant to bring us before a justice, we were released by a certain officer.
After that we traveled towards Cambridge, where we had a very good opportunity to visit Friends. Then we passed on our journey towards Norwich. It was the depth of winter, and we traveled only on foot, so it was difficult to the outward man; but the Lord was with us, and his mighty power upheld us, and carried us through all. Through his mercy we got safely to Norwich; where there were several of our north country Friends in prison, whom we visited, and with whom we were sweetly refreshed.
In this city we had a very large meeting, to which many people came; and the Lord was with me, and gave me a mouth and wisdom freely and powerfully to declare his living truth. At that time we were in great jeopardy of being arrested, but the Lord preserved us out of the hands of unreasonable men. At that city my companion left me, and returned towards the north. After I had visited Friends and the brethren there, I went into the country, and had very good service for the Lord. In a short time after I went to London, where I was very kindly received by Friends, and we were refreshed together in the Lord.
Not long after, several of the brethren out of the north and other parts came to London; and the mighty power of the Lord God was with us, and we were greatly exercised, sometimes in steeple-houses, and sometimes in the meetings of Separatists. Upon one first-day I was at two of their steeple-houses in the morning, and at one of them I had large liberty to speak. In the afternoon I was at a meeting of Professors, where there were six that spoke one after another; and I had liberty to speak freely among them without opposition or contradiction from any of them, and afterwards I departed in peace.
About that time, the word of the Lord grew mightily in that city, and many were added to the faith; and many steeple-houses, and most of the meetings in the city were visited by some of the brethren; for at one time there were ten or twelve of the ministering brethren in the city. Most of us came out of the north, even plain, honest, upright men, such as the Lord was pleased to make use of in that day; and we were very diligent in his work night and day, laboring faithfully to our utmost ability, to exalt his name over all, and to make his truth and salvation known unto all.
In that time we had many meetings in the city, and I began to experience much of the faithfulness of the Lord to me, who furnished me according to necessity, and was pleased to give what was suitable to the condition of the people, unto whom I was to communicate it.
About that time, I met with my dear brother John Stubbs, who had also come up to London out of the north; and though at that time we had little outward knowledge one of another, yet Providence so ordered it, that we became companions and fellow travelers together. It was upon us to go into the country, partly towards Uxbridge. At a certain place within a few miles of Uxbridge, we had very good service both in the steeple-house, and also at a meeting, which was ordered upon our arriving at that place. The Lord was with us, in whom we were strong, and our word powerful, though in our own eye we were weak, and contemptible in the eyes of many. The priest being moved with envy, stirred up the people against us, so that through his means we were apprehended and carried before a justice. But the justice was a moderate man, reasoning with us; and perceiving our innocence, he discharged us. Afterwards we returned to London again with joy and rejoicing, when we saw how the Lord had been with us, and how eminently he had appeared, through us weak and contemptible vessels; which we made known to the brethren at our return, who, when they understood it, rejoiced with us.
1655.-He travels with John Stubbs into Kent;
We stayed some time after this in the city, where we had good service for the Lord; and afterwards it was upon us to go into Kent towards Dover, which accordingly we did, upon the 13th day of the first month, 1655. We were in much weakness and fear, being but young in the truth, and hearing of such wise professing men in those parts. However, in the faith we went on, having confidence in God, who had been with us, and who was with us. In due time we got to Dover, where we were as pilgrims and strangers, not knowing the face of any in the town. After we had walked awhile in the streets, being very pressed and burdened in our spirits, we took up our lodging at an inn or ale-house. We had been only one night, when the mayor came to us, having heard something of such men being in town, and he examined us. It was on a first-day in the morning, and he wanted to have detained us for the day, but having nothing against us, he could not well bring his purpose to pass. After he left us, it was upon me to go to the steeple-house, where I had only a little liberty to speak before I was taken out; but in the yard I had some more liberty to clear my conscience to the people. As for my dear companion John Stubbs, he was at the same time at the meeting of the Anabaptists. In the afternoon, he was at the other steeple-house, and I was moved to go up to the castle to the meeting of the independents, so called, so that by that day's service the report of us went not only through the town, but also into the country, and of the truth of which we bore testimony. Shortly after, we had liberty to have a meeting at the Baptists' meeting place, at which many people attended; and the Lord was with us, and gave us mouth and wisdom, not only powerfully to declare, but also zealously to contend for the everlasting truth, which was then much opposed and denied both by professors and profane. Some, however, began to adhere to it, and to be affected with it, and then the enmity began to work in the hearts the people against us. We were taken before the magistrates, who examined us, and tried many ways to get the town cleared of us, and ordered that none should entertain us upon a certain penalty; upon which we were turned out of our lodging. But the Lord raised up Luke Howard, a shoemaker, who became so loving to us, and so bold and valiant, that he invited us to stay at his house, despite their order; where we stayed several days. Afterwards we had meetings in his house; and several at that time came to be convinced of the truth, whom we commended to the grace of God and left them.*
The following letter was copied from the original, found in a valuable private collection of letters formerly from Swarthmore, may also be interesting to the reader.]
After that we went there to a town called Folkestone, where we were kindly received by Thomas Nichols, his wife and others, - and we had some good meetings there; the priest of the town and many others being present at some of them. And the witness of God was truly reached in some, and some were convinced of the truth, and received it in the love of it. I was also at their steeple-house, but was uncivilly treated and allowed to speak only a little, until I was turned out violently by a rude fellow; but some that were simple and moderate were troubled at that. When we were clear of that town, we traveled towards Hythe, and on our way there we went into a castle which stood by the seaside, [Sandgate Castle,] where we were kindly received both by the captain and his wife. We had a meeting or two among the soldiers and others, and after that we went to the previously mentioned Hythe. It was upon us to go to their public place of worship, which we did; but soon after one of us had begun to speak, we were violently taken out, but preserved, through the hand of the Lord, from being much harmed by the rude multitude. It was much noted that he who was the most violent against us, had afterwards in a short time, some remarkable judgment befall him.
In that town the Baptists allowed us the use of their meeting-room, and at first were pretty moderate and civil to us, but afterwards they became (or some of them) our great opposers. However there were some in that place who believed and received our testimony.
We went from that town further into the country, and were at Romney and Lydd, where there were many high professors, and among the rest Samuel Fisher, a very eminent and able pastor among the Baptists. It was upon me to go to the meeting of the Independents, and upon my dear brothers to go to the meeting of the Baptists, where he had good liberty. The previously mentioned Samuel Fisher had been speaking among them, but, as it appeared, was so much affected with John's doctrine, that after John had done, Samuel began with his wisdom to paraphrase upon it with excellence of speech, thereby to set it forth in his comprehension beyond what John had done. At the meeting where I was, they would scarcely allow me any liberty to clear my conscience among them. After that, we had meetings in both places. One time we were at a meeting in the street at Lydd, for the Friend's house would not contain the multitude, the magistrates, or some of them, sent to the previously mentioned Samuel Fisher, who was also present at the meeting, to tell him that we might have the church-door, as they called it, opened to go in there; but we refused to accept of it, and chose rather to continue our meeting in the street. The previously mentioned Samuel Fisher believed our report, with several more in those two towns, who were convinced of the truth of God, which had not been declared in those parts by any Friend before.
We were also up in the country about Ashford and Tenterden, and had great meetings, and strong contests with professors, who opposed us greatly, especially in those two towns. However we found some who were simple and tender-hearted in most places where we held meetings. We were also at Cranbrook and Staplehurst, where we found a very open people, who were very ready to receive and to embrace the everlasting truth, which we freely and powerfully, according to our measures received, administered unto them, in the demonstration of the eternal Spirit. We had several large and precious meetings among them, and the power and presence of the Lord God were much with us, in which we rejoiced together, freely distributing the Word of life unto them, which at that time dwelled richly and plenteously in our hearts; and as we had received it freely, so we did dispense the same freely. For though there were those that would have given us both gold and money, which some would even have forced upon us, yet we had not freedom to receive one penny of them; for we told them it was not their possessions, but them, which we sought. Many were convinced and much affected with the truth, which with joy and gladness they received. Among them, as at other places, we sought to settle and establish meetings, and to bring those that were convinced to wait upon the Lord in silence, in that light of life in themselves, which we turned them unto; to the end that they might enjoy the substance of what they had professed. Accordingly meetings came to be settled in most of the places before mentioned, which they that were convinced kept up after our departure.-*
After that, we were moved to go to a great town called Maidstone; and it being on a first day of the week, we were at a meeting in the morning of the people called Baptists in the country; and after we had declared the way of salvation among them, we left them and went to the town previously mentioned. When we came there, it was upon my dear brother John Stubbs, to go to their public place of worship, and it was upon me to go to the meeting of the Independents, which accordingly we did; and John was taken at their steeple-house, and I the day following at my inn, and were both sent to the House of Correction, so called, where we were searched, and had our money, and our ink-horns, and Bible, etc., taken from us. Afterwards we were stripped, and had our necks and arms put in the stocks, and in that condition were desperately whipped; and afterwards we had irons and great clogs of wood laid upon us, and in that condition they would have compelled us to work, saying, he that would not work should not eat, etc. For since they had dealt so wickedly with us, and that without any just cause, neither could they justly charge us with the breach of any law, we were not free to consent so far to their cruel wills as to do their work; and therefore they kept us without food for some days. We were only allowed only a little water once a day. The person, who committed us and the chief agent in cruelty against us, was a noted Presbyterian. The other prisoners that were there would have given us of their bread, and the women of the house were moved with compassion towards us. They both would have given us something privately, but we were not free at that time to accept of either, until those by whose order the provision was kept from us, gave consent that it should be brought in to us; which finally he or they did. Many in the town began to be offended by their cruelty, which they manifested towards us. When they, who sought to bow us to their wills, were made to bow by the power of God, we were free to receive victuals for our money, and ate and were refreshed.*
* [The following particulars, in addition to those given above, are obtained from some early records of Friends of East Kent.
The next day following, after their cruelty seemed to be abated, they sent an officer, who made restitution of some of our things again which they had taken from us, but burned several good wholesome paper and letters. Afterwards they parted us, and with officers conveyed us out of the town, one at the one end of town, and the other at the other, which was no small trial to us to be so separated. We were conveyed from one officer to another in the country, and in that manner sent toward our habitations in the north; but when I had been in the hands of about twelve of them, they began to grow careless of their order, and finally, allowed me to travel alone, which accordingly I did toward London.
The next day I neared London, where I was more than a little refreshed with the brethren; and there I met my dear companion John Stubbs again to our great refreshment. It soon came upon us to return to the town of Maidstone again, and into that country, which was no small trial to us however, to the will of the Lord we gave up, and returned within two or three days. When our grand persecutor at Maidstone heard of our return, he sent a hue and cry after us. They went about eight miles into the country, coming to a friend’s house where we had stayed; but by then we were already at another place; and since it was first-day, that morning we went to their steeple-house, but the officer was not then there. So Providence so ordered that we were preserved out of their hands. Afterwards we passed through the country visiting the brethren that had received the gospel, who were confirmed in the faith, and the more so through our patient suffering. We were also at Canterbury where we had good service, especially among the Baptists and Independents, so called; for we were at their meeting, and had pretty much freedom to declare the truth of God among them. Some there received our testimony and were convinced of the truth, so that a meeting came to be settled there. Similarly at Sandwich I had a service for the Dutch people at their steeple-house, but at that time the truth was received by only a few.
1655.- He visits Calais in France—returns to
Dover C Travels to Yarmouth,
Upon the 12th of the fourth month, 1655, it was upon me to go over to Calais in France, which accordingly I did from Dover. When I came there, and saw the place so much given to idolatry, my spirit was very much burdened and depressed within me. In the power of the Lord I went to their high place of worship, where some were worshipping before their dumb idols, [Roman Catholic statues of Mary, Jesus, Joseph, Peter, etc.] I walked through them, but could not easily speak to them, because they could not understand me, neither could I then understand their language. But the Lord afterward made way for me to ease my spirit, and to clear my conscience among some of them. For after I had been there a little time, I was known to be there by some of the chief of the city, who desired to see me, and to speak with me; and some of them came down in person to the quay, where the ship I was staying on was anchored, looking for me. Understanding I was aboard, they called me to shore, and was afterwards conveyed to a private place, for fear of the rude multitude. My guide told me he told me that he was appointed to bring me to a large house, where several of the principals of the city were gathered to see me, hear me, and speak with me. So I had a great opportunity to declare the truth among them. A Scotch lord, so called, was the interpreter. The Lord was pleased to give me precious dominion over their vain, frothy minds and spirits, which were very addicted to lightness and vanity. When I had finished speaking as my conscience required, they allowed me to depart in peace. As soon as I was clear, and free to return to England, I did; and I found my dear companion, John Stubbs in Bristol.
About that time it was upon John Stubbs to go to Holland, and I was made very free in the Lord to accompany him. We had some good service afterwards in the country, in our return towards Gravesend; and from there we went to Colchester, and so to Yarmouth in Norfolk. Outwardly we were poor and feeble, yet full of power and strong in the Lord. We were very conserving and sparing in our expenses, of which I could say more than here I am free to insert; yet nevertheless the Lord did enable us to travel day after day, and many miles in a day, despite our keeping our bodies so much under stress of travel. Neither did we in those days want for money, of which we might have had plenty given us; but our hearts were clear and free from coveting that. As the Lord well knows, we kept ourselves clear and free of receiving money; for as we had received freely, so we were as willing to give freely. The little we had, the Lord sanctified and blessed us, and our reward we had always with us, in whatever place or condition we were.
After we came to Yarmouth, we waited there and in the country thereabouts the most part of three weeks for a passage for Holland. Finally an opportunity of a ship seemed to present, as also of wind. So we got aboard, though not without some difficulty in the roads; but presently after the master came aboard, and perceiving what we were, he would not carry us, but forced us ashore again; which disappointment, after we had waited so long, was no small trial to us. When we saw there was little likelihood of our getting passage from there for Holland, we determined to go to the north; and after we had waited some time longer there, we got passage for Sunderland, having no small weight upon us, which was the heavier because it was reported in the nation among Friends, that we had gone over sea. When we came into the north, I had much desire in me to go to see my dear and near relations in the Lord at Swarthmore and thereabouts, and Providence did so order it that I had an opportunity. Oh! the refreshment which we had at our meeting, and during the time I stayed among them, it would be hard for me to declare it to the utmost. Dear Margaret Fell, who had been as a tender-hearted, nursing mother to me, was refreshed to hear how the Lord had been with me, how he had blessed my labors, and prospered his work in my hand; for all which mercies, together with many more, we returned unto the Lord his praise, his due, and with joyful hearts offered unto him the sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving. When I had stayed some little time there, in which I was refreshed both in spirit and body, it was upon me to return again, to endeavor to accomplish the previously mentioned journey to Holland; and when the time of my departure had come, I took my leave of them with much brokenness of heart, in which I also left them. Visiting other Friends, I returned again into the bishoprick, where I had left my dear companion. Afterwards we had some precious meetings in those parts, which together with those we had had before, were of no small service; and being pretty clear of those parts, we sought again an opportunity for Holland.
Coming to Shields, we heard of a ship that was intended for Flanders, which, though it was in the king of Spain's dominions, and pretty wide from Holland, yet we were willing to go along with her, hoping to get passage from there. So going aboard her, we finally got through mercy to Yarmouth Roads again, where we found a ship intended for Flushing in Zealand, which being nearer to Holland than Flanders, we embarked in her. Through the mercy of the Lord, we arrived well at Flushing; where we came among a people of a strange language, among whom we had been but a little time, when our spirits were stirred within us by the power of the Lord; through which we were moved to proclaim his mighty day, and to publish his eternal truth, in and through their streets, whether they could understand or not; which we did, and his power and presence were with us. At that time no man laid hands upon us; so after we had unburdened our spirits, by easing them of the weight that was upon them, through obeying the Lord, we returned to our lodging again.
When the first-day of the week came, it was upon us to go to the congregation of the English and Scotch, which we did; and many gazed upon us and wondered at us, because of our non-conformity to them. But after we began to speak, they were much stirred, some with fury and rage, and others with admiration; but still, they would not allow us to speak much, but hurried us out with great indignation, and some violence was offered to us. However the Lord preserved us, so that we received but little harm from them, blessed be his name for evermore!
The same day we went to another great city called Middleburgh, and got there before their afternoon's devotion was ended. When we came there, it was upon us to go to the meeting place where the English and Scotch met, where we waited until the priest had finished. Afterwards one of us began to speak, but the priest would not allow it, imagining at first, before he understood well, that we had come begging. But when he perceived otherwise, he and others were more against us, and some especially were very violent, and beat me much. Indeed, had not the Lord been with us and preserved us through his mighty power, they might have done us much harm; but blessed be the Lord, he was our keeper and preserver.
After that, the priest sent for us to his house, and reasoned awhile with us; but he was of such a lofty and ambitious spirit, as many of that generation are, that the truth could have little entrance in him, or entertainment from him. After we had other good service in the city, and had become pretty clear of it, we embarked for Rotterdam in Holland; where, after some difficulty and hardship, we arrived through the mercy of the Lord; but did not know the face of any. When we had been some few days in the city, it became known to several, and after some time we got a meeting at an English merchant's house, to which many merchants came, both Dutch and English. We suffered for want of a good interpreter; for he that interpreted for us not being true and faithful, to interpret our words as we spoke them, but sometimes otherwise, the hearers or some of them, came rather to he incensed against us, rather than to be won or gained to the truth. However, the witness of God in some, answered to the truth of our testimony. As there had been no Friend before to declare the truth among them in that city, it was looked upon as much the stranger thing, and we were so much the more wondered at; but in due time, when we had cleared our consciences, and borne a faithful testimony to God's truth in that place, we departed there and returned again for Zealand, where we took ship for England.
After we had waited some time for the wind, we had an opportunity of sailing, but met with a very sore storm at sea; however the Lord preserved us, and we got well to Burlington (Bridlington), in Yorkshire, but were not permitted to go into the town, because we had come from Holland, where it was said the sickness then was. Nevertheless we saw our Friends, and were refreshed in seeing one another. Soon after we set sail again, and when we came near Hartlepool, the wind blowing very hard, we lost our foremast, and were in some apparent danger; but the Lord was pleased to preserve us then also, and to assuage the violence of the boisterous waves through his mighty power, in which we put our confidence. When through mercy we had gotten well ashore, we went up into the country among Friends, with whom we were more than a little refreshed in the Lord. After I had several meetings in the bishoprick [Durham.] I went again into Lancashire, and coming to Swarthmore, I was received with joy again in the Lord, in whom our refreshment was great, and a very precious time we had afterwards together, by which my very life was much revived and therefore did my soul magnify the Lord, with the rest of his lambs and babes in that place.