The Missing Cross to Purity


The Life of William Dewsbury
Continued

CHAPTER IX

Epistles—Laborers increase—State of the prisons— Sufferings of Friends—The cause—Faithfulness to their calling—Evidences that it was not of man — Sewel's testimony.

THE three following short epistles are introduced to the reader, in expectation that they will prove both interesting and profitable. They appear to have been written during this period of suffering, some particulars of which have just been related. They contain as well as the preceding ones strong indications of the writer's character, and evidence both his tenderness and watchful care over the flock of Christ, and of the sharpness which he was capable of exercising, when circumstances appeared to require it. "To the tender," says one who knew him well, "he was exceedingly tender; but to the stubborn and lofty he was sharp and plain, admonishing them, and declaring the righteous judgment of God against that state." In each of the addresses there are expressions, from which we may gather, that some for whose eye they were intended, had a zeal not altogether according to knowledge, which was displayed in an aptitude to give utterance to feelings under apprehension of duty, when silence would have been more consistent with a sound judgment, and more profitable to the body.

All saints and children of the most High God, abide with God in the calling where you are called; which call is the measure of light given to you, which witnesses against all the deceitful twisting of the serpent within you, and seals up to your spirits the eternal love of God, in the free covenant of life in Jesus Christ. All, in your measure, as you have received of the Lord, walk faithfully with him; so will you be preserved pure, clean and without blame before him, and be fortified by the arm of his eternal power, against all the deceit, subtlety, windings, and twists of the serpent within you and without you. I charge you in the presence of the Lord God, to abide with God in what he has communicated to you, and run not out from the witness of the eternal Spirit, that has in measure sealed you up in the power of his love.

You who do run out to speak further than you witness, are as a filthy drunkard that lavishes out himself, without the fear of the Lord; and so spends and wastes upon your lusts; and the plagues and vengeance of the Lord are your portion, for no drunkard or lustful person shall inherit the kingdom of God. All dear lambs, and children of the Lord, abide in the witness of the eternal Spirit, which will pass judgment, and bruise the head of the serpent in you. So will you be armed against all the glorious appearances of the serpent without, and keep him out of the Scriptures. The least of you in the Truth of God, will overturn all priests, and all the men of the world, who dwell in the serpentine wisdom and make a trade of the letter, (the Scriptures), speaking and disputing of the saints' conditions, as the devil did about the body of Moses, but cannot witness the Scriptures sealed to their souls by the eternal Spirit. Now, all of you who dwell in the Truth in your measure, will comprehend such as these to be houses built upon the sand, tall cedars aspiring up into the air, sturdy oaks that stand in the pride of their own conceits, but have no root.

Therefore let them not speak of the Scriptures, but bring them to the witness, which can witness to them of the Scriptures. So will the breath of the eternal Spirit of the living God, speaking in you from the power of the Lord, that has sealed his love to your spirits, raze the sandy foundation. Thus will the house and the sturdy oaks and the tall cedars fall; and the serpent in all his windings and twists, his head will be bruised, and all deceits overturned, and your souls preserved pure and clean; and the name of the Lord honored, who accompanies the witness of the Spirit with his own power. Abiding in his power, you shall reign as kings upon the earth. The Lord God Almighty be with you all, you sons and daughters of the most high God, and carry you all on in his eternal and mighty power, faithful unto the end, that you may receive the crown of eternal glory, which is laid up for you in the Lord Jesus Christ, and there you will fare well, and I shall remain with you forever in the Lord.

William Dewsbury

Dear Friends,

Meet often together in the name and fear of the living God. Take heed of words; see that the witness speaks, which will cut down your own wills and minister to the witness in others, to the slaying of their wills. Take heed of watching over one another with an evil eye, to spy out one another's weaknesses and to declare it to others and discover their nakedness. You who are here, (are in the same nature as) cursed Ham; and the wrath of God will be revealed upon you. But watch over one another with a pure, single eye. If you see the pure [mind] in any one in bondage by the deceit, do not whisper behind their back to others. But let the witness in you which sees the deceit, and suffers with the pure mind that is pressed down by it, declare and witness forth the mind of the living God against the deceit: and it will cut it down, and the pure, holy seed will be set at liberty; and your conscience will be kept clean unto the Lord, in discharging your duty. Thus will your captive brother or sister be restored again forth from the hand of the destroyer, and then you will have unity in that which is pure forever in the Lord. The eternal God of power keep you all, his dear children, in his pure wisdom, to walk faithfully with him and one with another. And the blessing of the Lord God Almighty be with you all forever, amen!

William Dewsbury

-----------------

My dear Friends,

This is the word of the Lord to you all, whom my Father has chosen out of the world in his eternal love, to make known his power in you.

Look not back, but judge that mind with my pure word, wherewith I enlightened your consciences, for the exercising them towards me and towards men.

And I command you, my children, stand in my pure counsel and look up to me; and I will accompany you with my power, and will make the way plain before you, in bringing down that which is untoward within you and disobedient to my will. So my ways will not be burdensome, nor my commandments grievous to you, my dear children. And this is my word to you :—cast off whatever I have let you see is offensive to my will, that so your souls may rest in the bosom of my love, that I may carry you on in the arms of my eternal power, faithful unto the end, and crown you with glory, which I have laid up for you in the Lord Jesus. Slight not my counsel, but be valiant and bold for the glory of my name, says the Lord God; and be not hasty to utter words before me; but let your words be few and savory at all times, ministering grace to all that hear you. That my name may be honored in you all, my dear children, in all your words and actions. Then I will accompany you with my powerful presence, and will make you a terror to all evil doers, one to chase a thousand and live to put ten thousand to flight. So will I get myself a glorious name, in the manifestation of my power in you, my sons and daughters, who stand faithful in my counsel and walk in my fear. And your souls shall be refreshed in the fountain of my love in the Lord Jesus, where you shall reign forever in my presence. Meet often together to wait upon me, in the fear of my name, and watch over one another in love; and I will be with you, my dear children, to order you in my pure wisdom, to the praise and glory of my great name, said the Lord God Almighty."

Written from the Spirit of the Lord, to be sent abroad among Friends, to be read at their meetings.

William Dewsbury

It was no slight proof of the reality of that wonderful power, which attended these witnesses for a true, entire, and glorious reform, that their hazardous attacks upon the existing order of things relating to religion, should have been so signally crowned with the divine blessing; that their exertions in faithfully laying open the prejudices and corruptions of their day, should have been attended with such remarkable effects. At quite an early period, we find a large number of laborers were called into the field, eminently gifted for their work, but above all things furnished with an unconquerable willingness to suffer shame for the cause they had espoused, and to expose themselves to the fury of persecution. In the year 1654, as Sewel informs us, there were above sixty ministers, (known as the Valiant Sixty), of the word raised up among Friends, who traveled in the work and service of the Gospel, laboring diligently "to turn people from darkness to light and from the power of Satan unto God." But their sufferings kept full pace with the increase of their numbers; of which all of these were more or less partakers. In the preceding year, George Fox was cast into Carlisle dungeon; and such was the malice of his persecutors, that they still contemplated his destruction. But their design coming to the knowledge of the parliament, it was arrested. The state of the prisons too, in which so many Friends passed a large portion of their time, as Clarkson informs us in his "Portraiture of Quakerism," was not easily to be conceived; some for filth and pestilential noise, and others for exposure to the inclemency of the elements. Indeed, the condition of these prisons previous to the latter years of the last century, was a disgrace to any civilized community; not only on account of their filthy, unwholesome, and neglected condition, but equally so, because of the indiscriminate association to which all classes of prisoners were subjected. It was common for Friends, mostly men of the better order, often of reputable or wealthy families, to be cast into those dismal dungeons, one of which is now preserved at Warwick jail, and is shown as a relic of former times. I remember visiting it myself in 1810; and the impression I then received will never be erased. Howard, in his description of this jail, says, "The night-room of the felons is an octagonal dungeon, about twenty-one feet in diameter, down thirty- one steps, damp and offensive; the jailer on going down took a preservative. "Basil Montagu, whose name is so honorably associated with the subject of prisons, prison-discipline, and the punishment of death for crime, in his account of a visit he paid to the same prison in 1815, says, "This offensive vault, which may now be seen in the prison, is eighteen feet ten inches under ground. In the middle is a cesspool; on the side is a stream for the prisoners to slake their thirst. There is a large heavy chain now in the dungeon, that passed through a link in the chains of each of the felons, which was then carried up the steps and secured to the outer door of the vault. The only light and air admitted, is through an iron grate on the top, and nearly even with the surface of the ground.

These are the dismal cells in which Friends were often made to suffer, in company with the most abandoned characters; and in which, as these sufferings abounded, their consolation did often much more abound; under a sense of which, they sang praises to God in their bonds, and with William Dewsbury esteemed the locks and bolts as jewels.

It was in Warwick jail, that William Dewsbury was imprisoned twenty years of his life, four years of which he was a close prisoner; whether in the pit or not is not stated. Nor should we have known that this was the fact respecting his confinement in Northampton jail from any statement of his own, for he suffered too cheerfully to lay much stress on the vile durance he underwent. But it was stated by others that he was there imprisoned in a dungeon twelve steps underground among the worst of felons. In such a dungeon as we have been describing, George Fox was confined for six months at Derby, “in a lousy, stinking place, without any bed, among thirty felons." Let any person read the account he gives of the dungeon in which he lay at Launceston, and he will hardly believe that such dreadful cruelties and oppressions could even then have been practiced in England, the boasted land of liberty and Christianity. "This place was so noisome, that according to common observation, few ever came out of it in health. He was forced to stand in sewage which topped his shoes and had not been cleaned for years. And though the liberty to cleanse it was requested, it was long before Friends were permitted to cleanse it themselves. They were neither allowed beds nor straw to lie on. And this was not sufficient cruelty upon the Friends; but the prisoners lodging over head, encouraged by the jailer, poured their sewage through the floor on the heads of those beneath. This dungeon was called Doomsdale. The head jailer had been a thief, and was burnt both in the hand and shoulder, his wife in the hand; and the same distinctions had also been conferred on the under-jailer and his wife.

At Lancaster prison," says George Fox, "I was put up into a smoky tower, where the smoke of the other prisoners' fires came up so thick, that it stood as dew upon the walls; and sometimes the smoke would be so thick, that I could hardly see the candle when it burned; and I being locked under three locks, the under-jailer, when the smoke was so great, could hardly be persuaded to come up to unlock one of the uppermost doors, for fear of the smoke, so that I was almost smothered. Besides, it rained in upon my bed; and many times when I went to stop out the rain in cold winter season, my shirt would be as wet as muck with the rain that came in upon me, while I was laboring to stop it out. And, the place being high and open to the wind, sometimes as fast as I stopped it, the wind, being high and fierce, would blow it out again." Numerous other instances might be adduced of the woeful state of the prisons at the period we are now considering, and of the lamentable suffering, often to death, which the early Friends endured in them. It is, however, to the credit of the present more enlightened time, in which the successors of those sufferers may fairly claim their share of congratulation, that the state of the prisons is at this time so widely different. Some remarks have already been made, relative to the unsettled state of the government, at the period in which Friends were first gathered into a distinct church; and it has been hinted, that the political as well as the religious ferment, into which from various causes the whole community was thrown, happened to be one source of the sufferings which this people had to endure. In addition to this, it cannot be concealed, whatever difference of sentiment may exist as to the propriety of the circumstance, that it was the zealous protest of Friends against the prevailing customs and character of the day, to which they were strongly impelled from a sense of religious duty, that mainly laid them open to the persecutions which followed them in their course. But then, on the other hand, it may be said with equal truth, that the apostles and early Christians did the same thing, and had to endure a similar ordeal from rulers and others, who, in the darkness of their minds, were not able to admit the validity of that divine authority, under which true believers have always acknowledged them to have moved. They were said to turn the world upside down; and a charge of this nature necessarily attaches in a greater or less degree to reformers of every age and class. Believing, and that not without good and sufficient reason, in the divine mission of George Fox, William Dewsbury and others associated with them, such will have no hesitation in asserting, that when those laborers were called into the Lord's vineyard, they were furnished according to the service that was laid upon them.

The particular portion of labor which fell to their lot, was that of carrying on the great work of the reformation, even in some points as regards the principles of religious faith, to a much further extent than was laid upon the reformers of the fifteenth century. Although the early Friends were, on this account, charged with being deniers of the Scriptures, because they preached boldly a revelation of divine knowledge to the mind of man, they did this as moved by the Holy Spirit, upon Scripture authority itself, and upon the ground of their own blessed experience. In the spiritual view which they were led to take of the Christian dispensation, they were indeed true believers in and supporters of the Scriptures; because they bore a fuller testimony to the scope and intent of those sacred writings. They not only acknowledged them, with as much sincerity as others, to be preeminently depositories of revealed truth, but they never shrunk from bringing those matters among the various sects which called for reformation, as well as their own doctrines and practices, to the test of Scripture, after the example of all true reformers. But in so doing, they were never suspected of an intention of overlooking the important fact, that the sacred volume itself needs a holy interpreter. Indeed, it was no other than this interpreter itself, as they believed, opening the Scriptures to the subjected understandings of the early Friends, that pointed out to them those things among the churches, which in that day required, and which still demand the hand of reform, and against which they were called to bear so public and so unflinching a testimony.

Nor were they left destitute of sufficient evidences of various kinds, spiritual, supernatural, and providential, intended no doubt for the confirmation of their belief, from one time to another, that the Lord was himself with them in their labors. In what manner the great work of individual repentance and regeneration was first carried forward in their own minds, we have now before us in the case of William Dewsbury, who was only a single instance among a large number, who were favored to arrive at the same enlarged experience. But "the evil heart of unbelief," under very specious forms of reasoning, is at all times endeavoring to shake the faith of the weak and the unwary, often by insinuating, that the superstructure of the heavenly building is not to be of the same materials as the foundation. But this we know and are assured, is neither scriptural, nor was it the belief of the early Friends. The same divine work, according to what they learned and what they taught, requires at all times the same divine power to carry it on.

Time has made no such change of circumstances, as to invalidate the truth of this position. The natural man is the same in all ages; and he is not more able at one day than at another, to comprehend with savor the things of the Spirit of God, for they will ever continue to be "foolishness unto him, and he cannot know them because they are spiritually discerned." In regard to the evidences above alluded to, and which are abundantly scattered through the writings of the early Friends, I introduce the following laudatory statement of facts from the pen of George Fox, to show the sort of encouragement that he derived from such experience as fell within the sphere of his own labors. He says:

"Many great and wonderful tidings were wrought by the heavenly power in those days. For the Lord made bare his omnipotent arm, and manifested his power to the astonishment of many; by the healing virtue whereof, many have been delivered from great infirmities, and the devils were made subject through his name; of which particular instances might be given, beyond what this unbelieving age is able to receive or hear. But, blessed forever be the name of the Lord, and everlastingly honored, and over all exalted and magnified be the arm of his glorious power, by which he has wrought gloriously; and let the honor and praise of all his works be ascribed to Him alone."

The preceding quotation is no enigma; it bears a faithful testimony to the facts of that day, although neither he, his companions, nor his successors in belief, have ever laid great stress on such occurrences however true; and have avoided insisting on them as proofs of their ministry. Although Friends in the early times did, with George Fox and with William Dewsbury, (as the reader will find when he arrives at the closing scene), acknowledge such instances of the marvelous extension of divine regard to be consistent with Scripture and sound reason, they concluded it to be proper in these latter ages of the church, to receive them simply as collateral assurances, that the Lord's power is the same in one day as another, rather than as essential evidences or as requisite fruits of the true faith. But many have found it difficult to reconcile the bold and inflexible conduct of the early Friends, in bearing their open and public testimony against the prevailing sects and parties in religion, as though none were right but themselves.

That this was actually the case with William Dewsbury, we shall see when the transactions of his life are further laid open before us; and it was the same with George Fox, and with the Friends in general. The question may be very fairly asked, How is it that such does not continue to be the ostensible line of conduct with Friends in the present day? There is little doubt, but that such as were well satisfied with the established religion, or such as had dissented from it into various sects and shades of difference, must have thought it highly obtrusive and presumptuous in any, though not altogether without precedent, thus publicly to call in question their principles or practices, especially if those persons were in the majority of instances but simple, homely, illiterate men. Neither do I wish to be understood as justifying every act which was the product of their generally well-directed zeal.* But I am ready to affirm it as my belief, that the manner of their appearance was well-suited to their day; that the amount of benefit to the nation and to the church, resulting from their labors and sufferings, has never yet been fully calculated, and that they were the means of laying the foundation of certain precious principles in the minds of men, which, the more they become developed in practice, the greater will be the gratitude of mankind on this account. The question therefore, in regard to their early practices, is not as to what might be agreeable or seem decorous or otherwise; but whether the Lord of the vineyard, did, or did not, see it proper to send laborers into his vineyard after such a peculiar manner; and whether he did, or did not, require this especial service at their hands, however repulsive or revolting their appearance might be to the carnal and hypocritical professors of those times. For many of these professors were very soon manifested not to be what they would pass for, some by the eager persecution which they raised against the truth, others by their cowardly compliances to shun persecution. On the other hand, we know beyond contradiction, that under this ministry, unsophisticated and unacceptable as it was to the worldly minded, thousands were soon turned from the evil of their ways; for we are informed by the testimony of authenticated records, which the whole history of the Society proves, that such a wonderful power attended the early preaching of this people, as for hundreds to be overcome by it at one time, and to be convinced of the truths which they heard. So that unpleasing as such instances of interference might be to the natural, impatient, unregenerate mind, the true Christian, the spiritual man, can have no doubt that the ministry of this people was a fresh display of that dispensation, which is love from God to his creatures. However feebly Friends may appear to have occupied their own ground in later times, it is worthy of very deliberate examination why it is so, and whether those primitive laborers were, or were not, divinely called unto this extraordinary work.

* The 1836 author can almost believe that the early Quakers were led by the Spirit of God, but he has some reservations, particularly that their confrontations with Christendom was only relevant to that time. The Spirit of God is infallible, and consistently sent hundreds of Quakers in to testify against the sects and their ministers. Even the eight year old daughter of Judge Fell, Mary Fell, was moved by the Spirit of God go to priest Lampitt to tell him that the Lord would pour out the vials of his wrath upon him; and when the King came in, he lost his job as a priest. CamJnl. At least the author of this biography was beginning to doubt the doubts regarding the early Friends that were already prevalent within Quakers in the early 1800's, and are universal now within the Quaker Society. Despite the fact that this author is pleading with the Quakers of the early 19th century to accept the early Quakers' testimony against Christendom as Babylon, even he betrays his indifference to (or worse, ignorance of) the soul-destroying deceits and calamitous deceptions of Christendom, the Whore of Babylon.

Do not make the mistake of assuming that George Fox, William Penn, Isaac Penington, James Parnell, Margaret Fox, George Whitehead, Edward Burrough, Francis Howgill, and William Dewsbury were imperfect and flawed in the doctrinal understandings. A conservative Quaker leader said to me, "What did George Fox have that I don't have?" When I answered, "perfection," this person said, "don't tell me that, even Peter denied Christ three times." In a state of shock, I said, "but that was before he had received the Holy Spirit at Pentecost." The person replied, "Oh, does that make a difference?" A conservative Quaker typically accepts the divinity of Jesus, speaks their thee's and thou's, and often still dresses like the 17th Century Quakers, calling it plain dress; of all the Quakers, they would be most likely to affirm the claims of Fox, Dewsbury, and the early Quakers — but, unfortunately they cannot see what they don't possess, perhaps for fear they would have to admit they were the unperfected blind guides, whom Jesus warned us against.

We have seen under what kind of impressions William Dewsbury moved, in various instances, from very early life, and how by revelation the mystery of unrighteousness, and the mystery of the gospel, which is according to godliness, was made known to him; and by what means he became an able minister of the New Testament, not of the letter, but of the spirit. When he received what he most surely believed, and what the event proved without contradiction, to be a divine gift and call to the work of the ministry, the word to him was, "What I have made known to you in secret, that declare you openly." If under such clear impressions of duty, (and it was equally the case with others his brethren), these men went forth, as with their lives in their hands, to publish the gospel of peace, to show the people their errors, and to make known to them what they themselves had both seen, and tasted, and handled of the word of life, it does seem to require some considerable caution how we allow our preconceived notions, or our un-subjected wills and reasonings to rise up in judgment against such a dispensation. Thus, "as Sewel informs us, " it may be seen, by what means the Quakers so called grew so numerous in those early times. As on one hand there were raised zealous preachers; so on the other there were abundance of people in England, who having searched all sects, could nowhere find satisfaction for their hungry souls. And these, now understanding, that God by his light was so near in their hearts, began to take heed to it there, and soon found that this gave them far more victory over the corruption of their minds, under which they had long groaned, than all the self-willed worships which they with some zeal had performed for many years. And besides those who were thus prepared to receive a further manifestation of the way of life, there were also many, who being pricked to the heart, and by the Christian patience of the despised Quakers brought over, became as zealous in doing good as formerly they had been in working evil.

Perhaps some will think it was very indecent, that they (the Friends) went so frequently to the steeple-houses, and there spoke to the priests; but whatever any may judge concerning this, it is certain that those teachers generally did not bring forth the fruits of godliness. This was well known to those who themselves had been priests, and had freely resigned their ministry, after to follow Christ in the way of his cross, [see Howgill as an example]. These were none of the least zealous against that society, among whom they had formerly ministered with upright zeal. Yet they were not for using sharp language against such teachers, as according to their knowledge feared God; but they leveled their aim chiefly against those who were rich in words only, without bringing forth true Christian fruits and works of justice.* Thus it was that Thomas Curtis, who was formerly a captain in the Parliament army, but afterwards entered into the society of the people called Quakers, wrote [as follows,] in a letter to Samuel Wells, priest of Banbury, and a persecutor:

To your shame, remember, I know you to be scandalous. How often have you sat evening after evening at cards, sometimes whole nights, playing and compelling me to play with you for money; yet then you were called of the world a minister; and now are you turned persecutor, etc.'

Site Editor's Comments : The author betrays his ignorance of the impossibility for any preacher, who has not been perfected by dying on the cross, to produce fruits of godliness and works of justice. The author also seems to believe the Quakers were correcting priests and teachers; to the contrary, they were trying to stop them leading their captive congregations to Hell with false promises of salvation — a false hope — with a false gospel — with a religion of ritual — rather than a religion of a change of heart — with a religion that made sin easier and without guilt — priests of Baal leading their followers to destruction — ministers of Satanspeaking from the divination of their brains, instead of the Spirit of God. Their mouths were to be silenced from further lies that left their congregations captive to sin and destined for destruction of their souls.

None, therefore, need think it strange that those called Quakers did look upon such teachers as hirelings. And that there were not a few of that sort, appeared plainly when King Charles II was restored. For, [in many instances] those who had formerly cried out against Episcopacy, and its Liturgy, as false and idolatrous, then became turncoats, and put on the surplice, to keep in possession of their livings and benefices. But by so doing, these hypocrites lost not a few of their listeners; for this opened the eyes of many, who began to inquire into the doctrine of the despised Quakers, and saw that they had a more sure foundation, and that it was this that made them stand unshaken against the fury of persecution.

CHAPTER X

1655. Address to the nation—William Dewsbury often a prisoner—Discharged from Northampton jail— Warning to his persecutors and those in authority— Travels to London—Kent—Land's End— George Fox's labors in Cornwall—Humphrey Lower—William Dewsbury holds a meeting at his house—Foresees a storm—Soldiers arrest him at Torrington— Brought before the mayor—His treatment—Delivered out of their hands—Writes to the mayor— Proceeds into Somersetshire — Bristol— Wales— Epistle to Friends about Plymouth.

IN William Dewsbury's collected works, under the date of 1655, we have an address to the people of England, containing the following paragraph, Sewel's History. Vol. I. p. 97. 6th edit. 1834, which was thought to be altogether worthy of the reader's attention.

Oh England, who lies in the fallen and lost estate, separated from the true and living God, by your iniquities, despite all your profession of his name in outward forms and observations. Repent, repent, and turn unto the Lord God Almighty, who waits on you to be gracious unto you, and to make you the glory of all the nations of the world, if you will hearken diligently unto his counsel,—the light that is in the conscience of every one, to wait in it upon the Lord God, that he may guide you by his power. And this which he has made known to me concerning you, Oh England, I have to declare to you from the Lord. Certain years ago, when the everlasting covenant of life was confirmed to my soul in the Lord Jesus Christ, [with the assurance] that I should go with the ransomed of the Lord to Zion, I inquired of my God, to manifest unto me where Zion was, that I might return there to worship him in spirit and in truth;—there being so many confused cries in you, Oh England, (who professes to worship the only true God), some saying, 'Lo, here is Christ,' in the Presbyterian practice, so called; and the Independent, so called, cries, 'Lo, he is here;' and the Anabaptist, 'Lo, he is here;' and others in outward forms [cry] saying, 'He is here,' as Christ foretold, that the time would come when they should say,'Lo, here is Christ, and lo there;' as it is fulfilled in you. But Christ said, 'Believe them not, go not forth, for the kingdom of heaven is within;' and, 'as the lightning that lights out of the one part under heaven, shines even unto the other part under heaven, so also shall the Son of man be in his day:'and this I witness. And while I was waiting on my God, to make known to me where Zion was, the word of the Lord came unto me with witness to my spirit, that Christ was not divided, and that there was no rent in his garment. For the Lord is one and his people one; and that all your outward forms of worship, Oh England, where you are waiting for Christ in observations, is contrary to his will. For Christ said, 'the kingdom of God comes not with observation,' (or as the margin has it, 'with outward show') 'neither shall they say, Lo here! or, Lo there! for the kingdom of God is within you.' And all your strict observing of your outward forms, is only imitating the saints' practices, in the Babylonish and heathenish wisdom. So there is nothing but confusion in you, and all your outward forms are the outward court, which is without the temple, that the angel was not to measure: for it is given unto the Gentiles, and the holy city shall they tread under foot. And this was made known unto me from the Lord my God, to be the estate and condition you stood and do stand in, Oh England, in all your outward forms and observations:—'having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof.' Lo under all your profession, is most cruel oppression; every one, according to their power, oppressing another, from the highest unto the lowest. So that the cry of the oppressed seed, within the hearts of your inhabitants, Oh England, and of those that are oppressed in outward oppressions in you, has entered into the ears of the Lord God of Sabbath; and he is coming in power to set the oppressed free, and to bring them to Zion. In the eternal riches of his love, he made known to me, where Zion was, according to the desires he had raised in my heart. And the word of the Lord came to me, saying, I will gather my people out of all forms and observations, and out of all kindreds, tongues, and nations, and I will pour my Spirit upon them, and purge away their filth with the spirit of judgment and of burning; and I will write my law in their hearts, and put my Spirit in their inward parts, and they shall not depart from me; but shall be bound up in union with me, in the free covenant of life in the Lord Jesus, and one with another in the one Spirit, so shall the Lord be one, and his people one. And this is Zion, the city of the living God, to whom all the promises of the Lord are, according to the Scriptures of truth; where they need not to 'teach every man his neighbor, and every man his brother, saying, Know the Lord, for all shall know me from the least of them unto the greatest of them; for I will be merciful to their unrighteousness, and their sins and their iniquities will I remember no more.' Therefore mind the light in your consciences, diligently hearken unto it, and it will strike your glorious image of forms and observations, and break it to pieces; and will rend off all your glorious coverings of your outward profession, and will let you see the woe is unto them that are covered, but not with the Spirit of the Lord. To the light in your consciences I appeal, which will eternally witness me, if you hearken unto it, to be guided by it. You will never find rest in outward forms and observations, except in putting off the body of sin, through the obedience of the Spirit; ‘that the righteousness of the law may be fulfilled in you, who walk not after the flesh but after the Spirit. For they that are Christ's, have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts.' And the body is dead in regard of sin, but the spirit is alive unto righteousness. You must witness this, or else all your religion is vain, and your souls will perish.

William Dewsbury

So very large a portion of William Dewsbury's time was spent within the walls of prisons, that the materials from which a narrative of his life is to be composed, are necessarily very scanty, and in many instances the chain of events respecting him can alone be rendered complete, by the insertion of little more than dates gathered from epistles, which at various periods he addressed to his friends and to the churches. After his liberation from the fifteen months' cruel imprisonment, which he endured in the dungeon of Northampton jail, he was favored to enjoy a pretty considerable respite from suffering in that way; which allowed him the opportunity of pursuing his religious duties, according as his great and good Master was pleased to lay them upon him. But previous to his deliverance from this confinement, he sent the following animated and solemn warning to such as were in authority, and were involved in the guilt of those persecutions under which Friends were then suffering. It possesses the peculiar characteristics of the writer's mind, as strongly as anything which is the product of his pen.

[Site Editor's Comments: The last sentence in the above paragraph is a very subtle way of saying that Dewsbury did not speak from the instructions of the Spirit of God, with the Word of God, as the Apostles did, and as the Quakers claimed to be in the same Spirit. If Dewsbury and the other hundreds of Quakers were deluded, they all seemed to suffer from exactly the same mental illness with identical symptoms, which would be beyond coincidence — there was certainly a spiritual influence — one that stressed godliness — obedience — morality — truth. One could only conclude it to be the Spirit of God, just like the Holy Bible promises believers - a new minda new heart - perfection foreverunion with God - in heaven with Him to see his glory — but to still be on the earth — only sanctified, separated — protected from evil - full of God's love, joy, and peace — and able to speak the Word of God, just like the Apostles. Dewsbury's biographer does not understand such words below to come directly from the Spirit of God, not just a peculiar mind.]

To all you rulers and judges of the earth, who combine against the Lord and against his anointed, and lay your plots in the deep, and fetch your counsel out of the bottomless pit, that you may ensnare the righteous seed, whom the world in scorn calls Quakers; — who, in love to your souls, do warn you, as you will answer it before the Lord God of heaven and earth, to give over plotting against the righteous, and inventing evil devices against the innocent. For in the light you are seen, and your secret works of darkness are discovered. And, all you who will not take warning now, when the Lord calls you to turn to his light, but reject his counsel, and continue in the evil of your doings, - to you this is the word of the Lord,

Your plots and counsels shall not prosper against the righteous; for he that sits in the heaven laughs, the Lord shall have you in derision. For no plot shall prevail against Israel, nor unrighteous counsel stand before Zion's King, who will break you with a rod of iron, and dash you in pieces like a potter's vessel, you who plot against him to oppose him in his appearance in the hearts of his saints. For what you do to the least of these, you do it to me, says Christ; and it were better that a millstone were hung about your neck, and you cast into the bottom of the sea, than to offend the least of those that believe in my name.

From the Spirit of the Lord who will not always strive with man, you are once more warned, now, while you have time, to prize it; and turn to the light of Christ in your consciences, which lets you see the secret evil of your hearts. And wait in the light, for the power of Christ to destroy the wicked, plotting, inventing mind, and to guide you in the straight and narrow way of self-denial in the daily cross, and in perfect obedience to the law of God, lest you perish in your disobedience. For the Lord God of Israel is arising, to plead the cause of his persecuted and oppressed people, and to scatter as dust before the wind all their enemies that plot against them. For they that plot against the people of God and dig pits for them, shall fall therein themselves. No weapon formed against them shall prosper; for all shall know, that God is with his people, and that the King of glory, who is the strength of his people, dwells in Mount Zion, and of his dominion there shall be no end. In that day, both high and low, rich and poor, who slight the [mercy] of the Lord, and continue in enmity against him and his appearance in the hearts of his saints, will know, that what is declared to you from the righteous Seed, is to you the word of the Lord God. 'He that has an ear to hear let him hear.

It was in the twelfth month, 1655, that he obtained his liberty; and it is reasonable to conclude that no long time would elapse, before he proceeded to Wakefield to join his wife and children, after so long and so trying a separation. Friends in those days, however, may truly be said to have married as though they married not, and to enjoy as though they possessed not; so freely and so sincerely were they given up to serve the cause of Christ. We accordingly find William Dewsbury, in the third month following, at a meeting two miles from Northampton, no mention being made of his having returned home in the interval. Here again, he narrowly escaped a prison, and was actually seized at the meeting in company with several other Friends, who were sent to the very dungeon he had himself so lately occupied, and were confined there a considerable time. Among these were John Crook, lately a justice of the peace, and Thomas Stubbs, a man of education, both therefore persons of some account where they lived. On this occasion, William Dewsbury's detention was only temporary; he was soon dismissed. Here a chasm of nearly a year intervenes in the biographical narrative, which the Editor will not attempt with any exactness to fill up. But, by a memorandum in the Author's handwriting, it seems, that had he been spared to have perfected his design, he would in this place have introduced some notice of the part taken by William Dewsbury in the affecting and disastrous affair of one who was a companion with him in labor and a brother beloved.

The case of James Naylor is perhaps as widely known, [see separate page for details] both to the public at large and to the Society of Friends, as any circumstance in our history; and therefore much need not be here said on the subject itself. Enmity and prejudice, however, have contrived from that time to the present to raise false conclusions from, and even to misrepresent the plain facts of the case, although explanations have been abundantly given forth, clearing the Society and their principles from the slightest implication in the whole matter. On this head, J. G. Bevan's Life of James Naylor, with a refutation of some of the more modern misrepresentations of the Friends, may be consulted with advantage. "James Naylor," says George Fox in his Journal, "was a monument of human frailty. His gift in the ministry was eminent, his experience in divine things truly great. He fell through un-watchfulness, but was restored through deep sufferings and unfeigned repentance. His own writings are the most clear and lively description of the various dispensations he underwent; some of them deserve to be transmitted to the latest posterity." William Dewsbury speaks of a journey to London, and of the dealings of the Lord with Naylor in the course of it, he says,—"who has restored many captives, and brought in many that were turned aside, in much brokenness of heart, in the sense of his mercy in their recovery." "I was led of the Lord," he continues, "into London, according to his will, in the service he had determined at that time in that place. I was much filled with comfort in him, to behold his appearance among his people, who did mightily refresh his babes with his own presence, in which I and my brethren are refreshed in him. The Lord laid it much upon me, that dear George Fox and James Naylor might meet together. My travail was great in spirit, until the Lord answered; which, in the day he determined, was done. Mighty was his majesty among his people, in the day he healed up the breach,* which had been so long to the sadness of the hearts of many. The Lord clothed my dear brethren, George Fox, Edward Burrough, Francis Howgill, with a precious wisdom; his healing Spirit did abound within them, with the rest of the Lord's people there that day, according to their measure of the Lord's Spirit in all, reached to embrace it with gladness of heart. Then I was set free to pass from London, through Surrey, and so to Bristol, to be there the first-day after, being the 5th day of the twelfth month."

*Site Editor's Comments: Weeks prior to the incident, Fox had warned Naylor in writing to disassociate himself from the fawning admirers, and instructed him to expel them from the Society. Naylor ignored the instruction. When Fox visited him in prison, before his release that resulted in the ridiculous display, he warned him twice that he was infected with a deceiving spirit. Naylor refused to accept the warnings, instead wanting to kiss Fox, (like Judas), which Fox refused.

After Naylor was arrested and transported to London for a show trial in Parliament, Naylor had not yet seen the error of his ways, and continued to defend his actions in testimony before Parliament and their designated questioners that cast further discredit on the Quaker movement. All of which was gleefully published throughout England in an attempt to destroy the Quaker movement. It was the Quaker's blackest hour. So, Fox was naturally hesitant to embrace Naylor until he had undergone sincere repentance, which he did after his terrible punishments and later imprisonment.

This incident was so publicized and scandalized in England, that today, (2009), there is an annual festival in Bristol, re-enacting the whole affair, with great international publicity and public attendance in a festive atmosphere that still casts shame on the Quaker movement.

Before giving the reader further extracts from this letter, relative to Bristol, it will be proper to add something as to William Dewsbury's conduct and dealing with James Naylor himself. A very judicious communication from the former of these Friends to the latter, with the reply of the latter, is now in the possession of the editor; by which it appears, that William Dewsbury had watched over and yearned towards his offending brother, and had seen with clearness the steps by which he had fallen, and the subtle snares which Satan had laid for his feet. These he traces out to him, reminding him how it had been with him in the hour of his temptation, and telling him where it was the enemy had gotten entrance, so as to prevail over him and others — how they had given way to a spirit of self-exaltation, by not abiding in the truth, nor in the light, nor in the grace by which we are saved, and by which alone the soul can be kept out of the reach of all delusion, deceits, and vain imaginations; and from an undue admiration and respect of persons, how they had proceeded to cry out against those who kept their habitations in the power of God; and at length to separate themselves from such, and to gather adherents about them, to the stumbling of many whose faces were set towards Zion, the saddening the hearts of the Lord's upright children, and causing his holy name to be blasphemed. He speaks of having been moved to come to London in the Lord's service; and that when there, he had sent for those who had so run out:-

"in tender love to their souls, I ministered to them, to clear their understandings where they were to return, that God might heal them; on which, some of them, with others in Essex and Norfolk, were bowed down while they were with me; and I am clear of their blood, whom in tender love I have followed, to gather them as a hen does gather her chickens under her wings. But if they will not hear, and return to the light, to wait in it to be restored, their blood be upon their own heads, with all the unclean spirits that gathered shelter to themselves under you, in their impudent wickedness, to withstand the counsel of God, they hoping you will own them in what they do; which gives them strength desperately to strive in a masterly spirit, and with feigning in all subtlety, to utter words and work lying wonders, to the grieving of the righteous souls and burdening the Seed of God. If they do not return to the Lord, to receive an understanding, and to walk with him in faithfulness to his counsel, they shall certainly wither and perish; the mouth of the Lord has spoken it, whose spirit will not always strive with man. If you allow them in their deceit, as you have, and do not reprove them, their blood will lie heavy upon you, and you will not be clear.

Dear James, I beseech you, in tender love in the Lord Jesus, wait singly in his counsel, to give you an understanding to discern the working of the deceitful spirit. Despite all feigning, that ground is to set up a master in the earth, and so make strife among brethren. The Lord God has turned his hand against them, and will overturn them, and all who joins with them in that deceitful ground. As the Lord gives you discerning, and moves you in his everlasting strength, arise and judge that deceitful spirit that has caused the truth to suffer, and has wronged you; then will the Lord give you dominion over it; so will you be clear of their blood, and there is some of them God will restore again, by their waiting in the light to be cleansed through judgment. What has been done in the hour of temptation, let the light and life judge it out; that in the light and life of our God, the whole body [may] grow in the unity of the spirit, to bear one another, serve one another, build up one another; that among all, there may not be any master but Christ, our head."

.. "many wait to hear of your being raised up in the light and life, to judge down and reign over this spirit, that has and does seek to make disorder and strife among brethren."

“God Almighty! Restore to a pure understanding all those that have been veiled; in your life, keep them in unity with all your elect, to serve you with faithfulness unto the end. Amen!"

James Naylor's reply manifests throughout, as clear and becoming a frame of mind as could be desired.

Site Editor's Comments: A clear and becoming mind is the editor's judgment; feigned humility is very difficult to discern, without the Spirit of God's help. The judgments of the Quakers at the time, including William Dewsbury, differed. See George Fox's letter to Naylor and Richard Huberthorne's letters one and two and three to Margaret Fell, written after Richard had visited James Naylor in prison. They all judged him to be out of the truth. But Nayler eventually did come to realize his mistake, and sincerely repent.

To return to Bristol. On the first Friends visiting this place, there were great disturbances from the rabble, incited by the priests and encouraged by the magistrates, as Sewel and others relate. This, it is presumed, was at furthest only two years previous to William Dewsbury's coming there; and his letter in lively manner conveys a picture of those times, and of the preservation and strength vouchsafed to the Lord's faithful little ones.

The sixth and seventh days before we came there, the apprentices, with the rude people, were running with naked swords in their hands up and down the streets, so thronged that it was hard to pass through them. On the first-day I was at the meeting where the Lord chained them all down with his Almighty power, in which the meeting was precious, and his people were comforted with living refreshment in his presence. They were preserved quiet, in peace, and without the least disturbance. At night, there was a meeting at Dennis Hollister's; many of the rude people with their swords stood in the streets, where they could hear; the Lord kept them quiet. Friends passed through them, when they gathered, and did not receive any harm. The next day they were more rude than formerly, some beating their masters, and not allowing the shops to be opened, threatening Friends who opened theirs. They did not regard the mayor or any of his officers, but did what was permitted, as they saw good in their own eyes; many times running into Friends houses, in this time of the tumult, but had not power, when they came, to do any harm. In the height of their madness, the rulers hearing of a meeting on the third-day of the week, being the 7th of the month, at Edward Pyott's, gave out openly among the people in the city, that they would come and break it up. When we were met together in the name of the Lord, some of them prepared to come; one swearing, and blaspheming the name of the Lord God of heaven and earth, said, he would cut the Quakers as small as herbs for the pot; and in order to perform his bloody intent, he went for the guard to take a halberd, that he might satisfy his bloodthirsty spirit. The God of our safety allowed it to be, that they of the guard would not let him have the halberd. So strife rose among them, and he fell in the pit he had dug, for he was run through the body. So God prevented their bloody intent.

The meeting was precious in the life of our God, in which Friends parted with joy in the Lord. The rude people were full of madness, and hearing of the largeness of the meeting, they called one to another, to kill Friends as they went in at the gates; but the Lord prevented them, so that Friends received no harm. The Lord bound the hands of the wicked. Still the envy remained in them, and they were full of madness, that they had missed the opportunity in which they intended to do such injury. They came in the night season, about the eighth hour, to Edward Pyott's; certain Friends were there, some out of New England, who were banished from their wives and children upon pain of death. We were bowed down before our God, and prayer was made unto him, when they knocked at the door. It came upon my spirit, it was the rude people, and the life of God did mightily arise, and they had no power to come in, until we were clear before our God. Then they came in, setting the house about with muskets and lighted matches; and after a delay, they came into the room where I was, and Amos Stoddard with me. I looked upon them when they come into the room, on which they cried out, as fast as they could well speak, 'We will be civil, we will be civil:' I spoke these words, 'See that you be so.' On this, they ran forth of the room, and came no more into it, but ran up and down the house with their weapons in their hands. The Lord God, who is the God of his seed, against whom no weapon that is formed shall prosper further than he sees shall be for his glory, and the comfort of his people, caused their hearts to fail; and they passed away, and not any harm was done to any of us; blessed be the God of our safety! The next day, it was upon me to go to Bristol, and walk in the streets among the throng of them, Dennis Hollister, Edward Pyott, and Thomas Gouldney being with me. We passed to George Bishop's, and came through where they were gathered together. The majesty of our God struck their hearts, and they all stood gazing upon us. Little was spoken, but some said, 'That is one of the Quaker preachers.' So we had a precious time with Friends, and I passed away with much clearness and freedom from the city of Bristol, Friends being very precious in the dominion of the life of God, in which they eyed his mercy, who had brought up John Audland and certain brethren among them, to strengthen them to stand under these trials.

The 10th day of the month, we crossed the water into Wales. Friends in general are pretty well as we pass. The 24th, we came to a meeting near Leominster; and the 26th, to Worcester. The night before we came in, the rude people were up in much madness, making fires in the streets, and the soldiers suppressing them. The night we came in, they rose in great rudeness, so that the soldiers, the mayor, and the rulers of the town were up much of the night to suppress them. The God of our safety preserved us, and a peaceable meeting we had, which continued many hours, and the presence of the Lord was mightily among his people. The next morning Friends met at the meeting place about the eighth hour; the Lord preciously satisfied the desires of his people with his presence, in which we parted one from another. We came to Tewkesbury where there was a serviceable meeting in the evening, certain Friends being there, who did minister as the Lord moved. Walter Jenkins, a Welshman, in whom the power of the Lord is moving, has been pretty much with me; as you are free you may write to him, he may be of good service among the Lord's people in Wales, he abiding in the life, to be led by it. A large meeting there was the 28th day of the month, three miles from Tewkesbury, and the Lord's presence refreshed his people; this day a meeting at Evesham, and the next day at Shipston, if God permit; further, as the Lord orders in his will. God Almighty be with you, your family, with all the faithful; and the Lord with his heavenly presence, and comfort the hearts of all that love him, and wait in uprightness of heart to do his will.

William Dewsbury

Remember me to Robert Widders and John Audland; as freedom is, you may let them know how it is with the Lord's people at Bristol and here.

On the 9th of the 2nd month, 1657, William Dewsbury dates an epistle from London; [but before this, a letter to Margaret Fell conveys, that he had been through Norfolk, Suffolk, and Essex on his way. Few particulars are entered into; but he states, that he found Friends in their measures preciously grown in the life, and that there was a great people in those parts. -Editor.] Having arrived in London, he appears to have tarried something short of six weeks, and then moved forward into Kent; from which district, in an epistle dated the 22nd of third month, he gives the following hints on spiritual obedience, and the exercise of gifts in order to the ministry.

I lay it upon you, wait for the Lord to seal unto you his mind, that in his movings you may answer his will in word and works. The light will guide you to know the intent of every motion, that in it you [may] stand approved in the integrity of your hearts to God. Everyone in particular, be faithful in the power of God, that in all the movings of the spirit of life, the earthly wisdom with all its reasonings and consultings are judged out; and all may know the new man in Christ, and the new bottle that preserves the new wine, which is committed to you in the kingdom of God, to refresh your souls and make them glad in his presence; and so minister in his living power and wisdom, to the refreshment of the weary and oppressed soul, with the comfort of the spirit of life, in which your souls are made glad in God. So will you all come to the pure ministry in the life. As you are moved of God, be faithful; strangle not the birth, neither quench the movings; and in the presence of the Lord, I warn you, wait for an understanding in the life to lead you.

Neither add to, nor diminish; so will death with nil its formality be kept out from among you.

William Dewsbury

[Of his visit to Kent, the only additional vestige is gleaned from the communication to Margaret Fell, mentioned above, the date of which is near Sandwich, the 3d of fourth month. He says, that he has had large meetings since coming into the county, and that "the power of the Lord broke in upon many of them;" also of his having been on board a vessel in the Downs, in which were a number of Friends, men and women, bound for New England in the service of the Gospel. He says, they were bold in their measure in the power of God; and adds, "his everlasting presence keep them in the unity of the life, and prosper them in his work." The master of the vessel, Robert Fowler, afterwards gave some account of the hand of Providence being with him in his voyage, which was called "A Quaker's Sea Journal." In it, he makes mention of the refreshment they had from the company of William Dewsbury, and that he recommended them to the grace of God. — Editor]

From Kent he traveled westward to the Land's End, preaching the word of eternal life through the southern counties. There is no account preserved, of how or where he was particularly occupied between the above date and that of the 17th of seventh month, when he writes a letter from the Land's End, in which he relates the particulars of some trials that befell him previous to his reaching that part of the country.

The year previous to William Dewsbury's arrival in Cornwall, George Fox had traveled through most parts of that county; so that the ground was already broken up for succeeding laborers. Great, "says the former," was the service of my God in that country. "On the first-day of the week, being the 27th of the month, he was at a meeting at Humphrey Lower's, who had formerly been a justice of the peace. He was one of the many who had been convinced by George Fox while prisoner in Launceston jail, where the latter suffered nine months' confinement, part of the time under the most revolting circumstances, in the dungeon of the prison which, was called Doomsdale, some particulars of which have been before related. This Humphrey Lower, George Fox describes as "a grave, sober, ancient man," who among others went to visit him while a prisoner there, and was thoroughly convinced, and so continued to his death.

It was at Lower’s house that William Dewsbury’s meeting was held; and he was a near neighbor to the high-sheriff of the county, a man, as William Dewsbury writes, "who was wickedly against the truth of our God." "It was said, he threatened to break up the meeting; but in the power of my God I did stand, which chained him, and the meeting continued precious in the Lord."

On the 29th, William Dewsbury was at a meeting at Launceston; after which he pursued his journey into Devonshire, his mind having been strongly impressed with an apprehension, "as the Lord had let him see, "that he would meet with a storm in that county, or near it, which in fact took place at Torrington. He was arrested there and, under a guard of soldiers, was brought before the mayor and other functionaries, who badly imbibed the persecuting spirit of the day. "Some of them," he says, “were very cruel and wicked against the truth of God, and dealt very rudely with me. In great wrath they took my hat off my head, and threw it on the ground, and committed me to prison for two nights and nearly three days." He was many times brought before them, and they accused him of being a Jesuit and a foreigner, and read to him many new laws, threatening to proceed against him as a vagabond: "in which," he says, "the Lord reigned over them." They then read him the oath of abjuration, the common care with which Friends were caught at that time; and they told him he must take it. He refused on account of the testimony he had to bear against all swearing under the Gospel, no less against the pope and all idolatry, than the other points embraced by the oath.

On the second day of his examination, towards night, he was brought forth, and they inquired of him how he became a minister of Christ; which subject had been before alluded to. It appears to have been a mystery to them, how a man could be in the way of his duty in leaving his wife and children in the North of England, "to preach the word of eternal life through the southern counties unto Cornwall." And when, in answer to their questions, “he was free in the Lord to declare to them how he came to be a minister of Christ," they were so cut to the heart, that one of the justices wept, and the clerk said, “If you had spoken this much before, this would have never happened.” But there appears to have been great confusion of purpose and difference of sentiment among the magistrates, so that Dewsbury attempting to speak further on the subject was not allowed. Others offended at his hat, stormed against him for having it on, and he was sent again to prison. "Many times," he says, "I was brought before them, to see if they could ensnare me. But in the wisdom of God, I stood innocent." The case was difficult, and there was a power among them to which they were unwilling to be subject, yet were unable to control. For although they made out a mittimus to commit the prisoner to the common jail at Exeter, they were so divided that some of them objected to his going there; but the mayor, "he who had the chief rule," told him, he should not see his face any more until he was before the judge at the next assize at Exeter. "Do with me what you have power to do, my innocence will plead for me," replied Dewsbury; and he was remanded to prison, where he lay on the bare floor; remaining in this condition until the 2nd day of the eighth month.

"I was then," he says, "brought before them. My God had pleaded my cause, and changed the heart of man, which failed in them. For the man who said I would see his face no more, until I was before the judge at Exeter, tore the mittimus in pieces before my face, and said to me, 'You are free.' So did my God set me free, out of the hands of unreasonable men, according to his promise made to me; praises to his name forever."

Before he left Torrington, he addressed a close and faithful letter to the mayor of the town, telling him, that he and others in commission had abused their power, and turned their hands against the innocent; "whom," he says, "you wounded as much as you could. In the fear of God consider what you have done. Is this the fruit of your fasting and humbling yourselves, as you say; when you have done, to smite with the fist of wickedness, and instead of entertaining strangers, to use them so barbarously?" "An account you must give to the Judge of heaven and earth." He then referred to some of the latter portions of the 25th chapter of Matthew, telling them, it will be in vain to say, "When did we see you hungered, and fed you not," etc. inasmuch as they did it not to the least of the brethren; and he calls upon them to prize their time, and not to slight the day of God's mercy: — to incline their ear to his counsel, the divine light in their consciences, that would discover to them the evil of their hearts, and their unjust proceeding against innocent men; that so the Lord might give them repentance unto life, lest otherwise they should perish in the day of his fierce wrath, when he will recompense to every man according to his works: and finally takes his departs, by expressing his desire, that the Lord would not lay what they had done against him to their charge.

Having thus regained his liberty, he proceeded without delay on his journey into Somersetshire; and, on the 4th of the eighth month, was at a large meeting in that county, and tarried a night in Ilchester jail, with Thomas Salthouse and others, who were imprisoned there. The next day he went forward into Wiltshire, where he held another meeting.

On the 11th, being-the first-day of the week, he was at a meeting which was thought to he attended by two thousand persons: in reference to which, he says," My God was mighty in his power, to the glory of his name." He then passed through Gloucestershire, and on to Bristol, which he reached on the 18th of the month.

[It is not likely that the termination of his services on this journey was at Bristol; for, by a letter from his wife to a Friend, it would seem, that on the 28th of eighth month, he was intending to enter Wales. There is also a letter from himself, which, though it wants a date, maybe referred to this period; by an extract from it we may see how great his exercises and labors in this district must have been, and that they were "not in vain in the Lord," his Guide, Counselor, and Helper. “Our God," he says," in mercy is answering the prayers of his people, in bringing back again them that have been driven away in the hour of temptation, and now is seeking the lost, and restoring the scattered of the house of Israel. Many in Wales and elsewhere return, with brokenness of heart for what they "have done against the Lord, and his servants; and God pardons them, and restores them in his mercy. And most of the meetings that were scattered, are in the mercy of our God established: many of them owned their condemnation openly, for what they had done against the Lord, to their shame and his glory, who prospers his work in his own hand, and with his outstretched arm glorifies his name, to our comfort, whom he has chosen to do his will, to his glory, who is worthy: blessed be his name forever!"-Editor.]

The account of this journey shall be closed by the following epistle, dated Cornwall, 1657, which is now for the first time printed.

Brethren and sisters in the immortal Seed, whom the Lord has placed in and about Plymouth. The Lord in his tender love waits to make you a royal priesthood to himself forever. All watch in the measure of light, believing in it, that the Spirit of God [may] arise, to keep your minds staid upon the Lord. There you will find the fountain of God's living mercy opened to you all, refreshing your souls, and crowning his own Seed with dominion, to keep you fruitful in his life, to praise his name forever and ever! God Almighty keep you in unity in the immortal Seed, to serve the Lord with one consent, to the finishing of your course with joy, to the praise of his name. Even so be it with you, in the power of the Lord God! Amen.

William Dewsbury

When the church of the living God is met together, this to be read in his fear.

<<Continued >>>>

This web site's purpose is to show how to become
free from sin
by benefiting from the changing power of God through the cross,
which leads to union with God in his Kingdom.

 


Top | About Us | Home | ©2006 Hall Worthington