Highlights of His Life, and His Poetry
Site Editor's Preface
Thomas Ellwood (1639 - 1713) is today best known as the editor of the official version of George Fox's Journal. His job of editing the Journal of Fox was expertly done, leading us to conclude that the Lord had uniquely prepared him to complete this task, making the priceless message of the Journal understandable and interesting for hundreds of years. Ellwood was convinced of the Truth by the ministry of Edward Burrough and nurtured in growth by Isaac and Mary Penington as a young man. He was was an eminent servant of Christ, lending his pen to produce many serious writings in defense of the Quakers' record and practices, whenever they were frequently assaulted by vicious critics. Ellwood was also the Quaker poet of note. His featured work on this site is the Life of King David in Poetry. He skills as a writer were honed by his association with John Milton, who being blind, employed Ellwood to be his reader; and who molded his thinking and manner of expression.
Ellwood's autobiography, The Life of Thomas Ellwood, is relatively easy to read, is interlaced with poetry to the occasion, and gives us the most detailed description of prison conditions available. He was greatly loved and admired by his Friends, for his compassion, kindness, courage in opposing those who drifted into error, and clear writings defending and championing the Quakers' cause.
The following are highlights taken from his autobiography, along with all of his poems included. As with the rest of the writings on this site, the language has been slightly modernized, substituting you for thee and thou, has for hast, etc. In addition, substitutions for obsolete words have been made, with occasional sentence restructuring.
"GATHER up the fragments that remain, that nothing is lost", (John 6:12), was the direction of our Savior to His Disciples, after He had fed the multitude, which may well and usefully be applied to the collecting and preserving the accounts of the lives of good men; men who in their day have been eminently useful in those stations of life in which God by His good providence has placed them. And this preserving, by publication, is the rather to be done when themselves do leave behind them in writing an account of their lives and of the signal mercies of God to them therein. For from such accounts may best be gathered by the reader the man's particular state, exercise and growth in the work of restoration, out of the fall of degeneracy, and in the reading thereof be not only excited to bless the name of the Lord on his behalf, but also gain some direction from the path so fairly tracked out and ground of hope; that by being faithful they may likewise attain to the same good experience.
There is not with me any doubt, but something of this kind may be the lot of many, into whose hands this treatise may happen to come; for that they will herein meet with variety of exercises, and the providences of God therein all related with great strength and plainness of speech; our deceased friend Thomas Ellwood having been a man whom God had endued with singular abilities, both as a man and as a Christian; which is evident not only from this short account of his life which was written by himself, and by the supplement added thereunto; but more largely from his many useful labors and services in the many books which he wrote in the defense of Truth and the Friends thereof. For which service he was in a particular manner qualified by spiritual wisdom and Christian obedience to which in him was added great strength and depth of judgment in which he could discern the spirits of others and was very much the master of his own, as did appear to such as knew him, not only by the soundness of his reasoning and the seasonableness of his words; but also by his great and exemplary modesty, in that he was not hasty to propose nor rudely tenacious to insist on what he had proposed, if anything, though not well expressed, yet well intended, was offered by anyone much weaker, no, though but a babe in Christ.
His countenance was manly and cheerful; his deportment grave, yet affable and courteous even to the meanest person; his conversation innocent, pleasant and instructive, yet severe against anything that was beyond the liberty of truth. These, with his other qualifications of body and mind did render him both very acceptable as a friend, as a neighbor, and as a member and elder in the Church of Christ; and the more for that his time was chiefly employed in being serviceable in one or other of these capacities. I might here particularly mention the several labors of our deceased friend, according to their respective times, and the nature of their several subjects; but much of this being already done in the ensuing pages, I choose to remit the reader there; by which possibly he may be excited to the perusal of them, and shall only say concerning them that the judicious reader will easily observe that his method and style do denote him to have been a scholar; and yet not farther so than the simplicity and purity of the truth whereof he made profession would permit him.
I was with our friend Thomas Ellwood the greater part of his sickness, in which he was also very frequently visited by our friend George Bowles, who was his neighbor; to whom therefore I refer for the account which he may give of his dying words:
As it was my good lot to be well acquainted with him, though only in the latter years of his life, and know that he did neither use nor encourage the bestowing elaborate encomiums upon persons deceased; so neither shall I add further concerning him, than to say with the Apostle concerning the faithful "that he was righteous, God testifying to his gifts; and by it, being dead, yet speaks " (Heb. 11:4).
The Life of Thomas Ellwood,
as Written Himself
The place of my birth was a little country town called Crowell, situated in the upper side of Oxfordshire, three miles eastward from Thame, the nearest market town. My father's name was Walter Ellwood, and my mother's maiden name was Elizabeth Potman, both well descended, but of declining families. So that what my father possessed, which was a pretty estate in lands, and more as I have heard in monies, he received, as he had done his name Walter, from his grandfather Walter Gray, whose daughter and only child was his mother.
In my very infancy, when I was but about two years old, I was carried to London; for the civil war between King and Parliament breaking then forth, my father, who favored the Parliament side, though he took not arms, not holding himself safe at his country habitation, which lay too near some garrisons of the King's, took himself to London, that city then holding for the Parliament.
There was I bred up, though not without much difficulty, the city air not agreeing with my tender constitution, and there continued until Oxford had surrendered, and the war in appearance ended.
In this time my parents contracted an acquaintance and intimate friendship with the Lady Springett, who being then the widow of Sir William Springett, who died in the Parliament service, was afterwards the wife of Isaac Penington,* eldest son of Alderman Penington, of London. And this friendship devolving from the parents to the children, I became an early and particular playfellow to her daughter Gulielma [who later became the wife of William Penn]; being admitted, as such, to ride with her in her little coach, drawn by her footman about Lincoln's Inn Fields. I mention this in this place because the continuation of that acquaintance and friendship, having been an occasional means of my being afterwards brought to the knowledge of the blessed TRUTH, I shall have frequent cause, in the course of the following discussion, to make honorable mention of that family, to which I am under so many and great obligations.
I was sent to the free school at Thame, in Oxfordshire, which at that time was in good reputation; and I profited rapidly, having then a natural propensity to learning; so that at the first reading over of my lesson I commonly made myself master of it; and yet, which is strange to think of; few boys in the school wore out more birch than I. For though I was never, that I remember, whipped upon the score of not having my lesson ready, or of not saying it well, yet being a little busy boy, full of spirit, of a working head and active hand, I could not easily conform myself to the grave and sober rules, and, as I then thought, severe orders of the school; but was often playing one waggish prank or other among my fellow-scholars, which subjected me to correction, so that I have come under the discipline of the rod twice in one morning; which yet broke no bones.
Had I been continued at this school, and in due time preferred to a higher, I might in likelihood have been a scholar, for I was observed to have a genius apt to learn. So soon as the republican government began to settle, my father having accepted the office of a justice of the peace, (which was no way beneficial, but merely honorary, and every way expensive), and put himself into a port and course of living agreeable to it; and having also removed my brother from Thame school to Merton College in Oxford, and entered him there in the highest and most chargeable condition of a Fellow Commoner; he found it needful to retrench his expenses elsewhere, the hurt of which fell upon me. For he then took me from school, to save the charge of maintaining me there; which was somewhat like plucking green fruit from the tree, and laying it by before it has come to its due ripeness, which will then shrink and wither, and lose that little juice and relish which it began to have.
Even so it fared with me. For being taken home when I was but young, and before I was well settled in my studies, (though I had made a good progress in the Latin tongue, and was entered in the Greek), being left too much to myself to ply or play with my books, or without them, as I pleased, I soon shook hands with my books by shaking my books out of my hands, and laying them by degrees quite aside, and addicted myself to such youthful sports and pleasures as the place afforded and my condition could reach unto.
Thus I went on, taking my swing in such vain courses as were accounted harmless recreations, entertaining my companions and familiar acquaintance with pleasant discussions in our conversations, by the mere force of mother-wit and natural parts, without the help of school cultivation; and was accounted good company too.
But I always sorted myself with persons of ingenuity, temperance and sobriety; for I loathed scurrilities in conversation, and had a natural aversion to immoderate drinking. So that in the time of my greatest vanity I was preserved from profaneness and the grosser evils of the world, which rendered me acceptable to persons of the best note in that country then.
I recall one incident that occurred when traveling with my father in a coach. The coachman took a road through a cornfield, and the farmer became quite angry about it, despite it being commonly used as a road and the corn was not damaged. On our return, the farmer stopped the coach and threatened us, armed with clubs. My father ordered me to disarm them. He raised it in a threatening manner and I immediately drew my sword and thrust in his direction. Fortunately he jumped back, or he would have been run though to the handle. He fled and I pursued him, but lost him; so we continued on our return home. [This account has been shortened for the sake of brevity].
At that time, and for a good while after, I had no regret upon my mind for what I had done, and designed to have done, in this case; but went on in a sort of bravery, resolving to kill, if I could, any man that should make the like attempt or put any affront on us; and for that reason seldom went afterwards upon those public services without a loaded pistol in my pocket. But when it pleased the Lord, in His infinite goodness, to call me out of the spirit and ways of the world, and give me the knowledge of His saving truth, by which the actions of my past life were set in order before me, a sort of horror seized on me, when I considered how near I had been to the staining of my hands with human blood. And whenever afterwards I went that way, and indeed as often since as the matter has come into my remembrance, my soul has blessed the Lord for my deliverance, and thanksgivings and praises have arisen in my heart, (as now at the relating of it, they do), to Him who preserved and withheld me from shedding man's blood. Which is the reason for which I have given this account of that action, that others may be warned by it.
I mentioned before, that during my father's abode in London, in the time of the civil wars, he contracted a friendship with the Lady Springett, then a widow, and afterwards married to Isaac Penington; to continue which he sometimes visited them at their country lodgings, as at Datchet, and at Causham Lodge, near Reading. And having heard that they had come to live upon their own estate at Chalfont, in Buckinghamshire, about fifteen miles from Crowell, he went one day to visit them there, and to return at night, taking me with him.
But very much surprised we were when, being come there, we first heard, then found, they had become Quakers; a people we had no knowledge of, and a name we had until then scarcely heard of.
So great a change, from a free, debonair, and courtly sort of behavior, which we formerly had found them in, to so strict a gravity as they now received us with, did not a little amuse us; and we were disappointed in our expecting such a pleasant visit as we used to have, and had now promised ourselves. Nor could my father have any opportunity, by a private conference with them, to understand the ground or occasion of this change, there being some other strangers with them, (related to Isaac Penington), who came that morning from London to visit them also.
For my part I sought and at length found means to cast myself into the company of the daughter, [Guli - who later became William Penn's wife], whom I found gathering some flowers in the garden, attended by her maid, who was also a Quaker. But when I addressed myself to her after my accustomed manner, with intention to engage her in some discussion which might introduce conversation on the basis of our former acquaintance; though she treated me with a courteous manner, yet, as young as she was, the gravity of her look and behavior struck such an awe upon me, that I found myself not so much master of myself as to pursue any further conversation with her. Therefore, asking pardon for my boldness in having intruded myself into her private walks, I withdrew, not without some disorder, (as I thought at least), of mind.
We stayed for dinner, which was very handsome, and lacked nothing to recommend it to me but the want of mirth and pleasant discussion, which we could neither have with them, nor by reason of them with one another among ourselves; the weightiness that was upon their spirits and countenances keeping down the lightness that would have been up in us. We stayed, notwithstanding, until the rest of the company took leave of them, and then we also, doing the same, returned, not greatly satisfied with our journey, nor knowing what in particular to find fault with.
Yet this good effect that visit had upon my father, who was then in the Commission of the Peace, that it disposed him to a more favorable opinion of and carriage towards those people when they came in his way, as not long after one of them did. For a young man who lived in Buckinghamshire, came on a first-day to the church, (so called), at a town called Chinner, a mile from Crowell, having, it seems, a pressure on his mind to say something to the minister of that parish. He was an acquaintance of mine, and drew me sometimes to hear him, as it did then. The young man stood in the aisle before the pulpit all the time of the sermon, not speaking a word until the sermon and prayer after it was ended, and then spoke a few words to the priest. Of which all that I could hear was, “That the prayer of the wicked is abomination to the Lord, and that God hears not sinners.”
Somewhat more, I think, he did say, which I could not distinctly hear for the noise the people made; and more probably he would have said, had he not been interrupted by the officers, who took him into custody, and led him out in order to carry him before my father.
When I understood that, I hastened home, that I might give my father a fair account of the matter before they came. I told him the young man behaved himself quietly and peaceably, spoke not a word until the minister had quite done his service, and that what he then spoke was but short, and was delivered without passion or ill language. This I knew would furnish my father with a fair ground whereon to discharge the man if he would.
Accordingly when they came, and made a great complaint against the man, (who said little for himself), my father, having examined the officers who brought him - what the words that he spoke were, (which they did not well agree in), and at what time he spoke them, (which they all agreed to be after the minister had done), and then, whether he gave the minister any reviling language, or endeavored to raise a tumult among the people, (which they could not charge him with); not finding that he had broken the law, he counseled the young man to be careful that he did not make or occasion any public disturbance, and so dismissed him. Which I was glad of.
Some time after this, my father, having gotten some further account of the people called Quakers, and being desirous to be informed concerning their principles, made another visit to Isaac Penington and his wife, at their house called the Grange, in Peter's Chalfont, and took both my sisters and me with him.
It was in the tenth month, in the year 1659, that we went there, where we found a very kind reception, and tamed some days; one day at least the longer, for that while we were there a meeting was appointed at a place about a mile from there, to which we were invited to go, and willingly went. [Ellwood was then twenty years old, when introduced to the Truth].
It was held in a farm-house called the Grove, which having formerly been a gentleman's seat, had a very large hall, and that well filled. To this meeting came Edward Burrough, besides other preachers, as Thomas Curtis and James Naylor, but none spoke there at that time but Edward Burrough, next to whom, as it were under him, it was my lot to sit on a stool by the side of a long table on which he sat, and I drank in his words with desire; for they not only answered my understanding, but warmed my heart with a certain heat, which I had not until then felt from the ministry of any man.
When the meeting was ended our friends took us home with them again; and after supper, the evenings being long, the servants of the family, (who were Quakers), were called in, and we all sat down in silence. But we did not sit long before Edward Burrough began to speak among us. Although he spoke not long, yet what he said did touch, as I suppose, my father's, (religious), copyhold, as the phrase is. He having been from his youth a professor, though not joined in what is called close communion with anyone sort, and valuing himself upon the knowledge he esteemed himself to have in the various notions of each profession, thought he had now a fair opportunity to display his knowledge, and then began to make objections against what had been delivered.
The subject of the discussion was, " The universal free grace of God to all mankind," to which Edward Burrough opposed the Calvinistic tenet of particular and personal predestination; in defense of which indefensible notion my father found himself more at a loss than he expected. Edward Burrough said not much to him upon it, though what he said was close and cogent; but James Naylor interposing, handled the subject with so much perspicuity and clear demonstration, that his reasoning seemed to be irresistible; and so I suppose my father found it, which made him willing to drop the discussion.
As for Edward Burrough, he was a brisk young man, of a ready tongue, and might have been, for all I then knew, a scholar, which made me the less to admire his way of reasoning. But what I heard from James Naylor had the greater force upon me, because he looked but like a plain simple countryman, having the appearance of a husbandman or a shepherd.
As my father was not able to maintain the argument on his side, so neither did they seem willing to drive it to an extremity on their side; but treating him in a soft and gentle manner, did after a while let fall the discussion, and then we withdrew to our respective chambers.
The next morning we prepared to return home, (that is, my father, my younger sister and myself for my elder sister had previously gone by the stage-coach to London); and when, having taken our leaves of our friends, we went forth, they, with Edward Burrough, accompanying us to the gate, he there directed his speech in a few words to each of us severally, according to the sense he had of our several conditions. When we had gone off, and they had gone in again, they asked him what he thought of us; he answered them, as they afterwards told me, to this effect: “As for the old man, he is set in his ways, and the young woman is light and airy; but the young man is reached, and may do well if he doesn't lose it." Surely what he said to me, or rather the spirit in which he spoke it, took such fast hold on me, that I felt sadness and trouble come over me, though I did not distinctly understand what I was troubled for I knew not what I ailed, but I knew I ailed something more than ordinary, and my heart was very heavy.
I had a desire to go to another meeting of the Quakers, and asked my father's man to inquire if there was any in the country thereabouts. He then told me he had heard at Isaac Penington's that there was to be a meeting at High Wiccomb on Thursday next.
Therefore I went, though it was seven miles from me, and that I might be rather thought to go out carousing than to a meeting, I let my greyhound run by my horse’s side. When I came there, and had set up my horse at an inn, I was at a loss how to find the house where the meeting was to be. I knew it not, and was ashamed to ask after it. Therefore, having ordered the stable hand to take care of my dog, I went into the street and stood at the inn gate, musing with myself what course to take. But I had not stood long before I saw a horseman riding along the street, whom I remembered I had seen before at Isaac Penington's and be put up his horse at the same inn. I therefore resolved to follow him, supposing he was going to the meeting, as indeed he was.
Having come to the house, which proved to be John Raunce's, I saw the people sitting together in an outer room. Therefore I stepped in and sat down on the first vacant seat, the end of a bench just within the door, having my sword by my side and black clothes on, which drew some eyes upon me. It was not long before one stood up and spoke, whom I was afterwards well acquainted with; his name was Samuel Thornton, and what he said was very suitable and of good service to me, for it reached home as if it had been directed to me.
As soon as ever the meeting was ended and the people began to rise, I, being next the door, stepped out quickly, and hastening to my inn, took horse immediately homewards, and, (so far as I remember), my having been gone was not taken notice of by my father.
Convinced of the Truth
This last meeting was like the clinching of a nail, confirming and fastening in my mind those good principles which had sunk into me at the former. My understanding began to open, and I felt some stirrings in my breast, tending to the work of a new creation in me. The general trouble and confusion of mind, which had for some days laid heavy upon me and pressed me down, without a distinct discovery of the particular cause for which it came, began now to wear off, and some glimmerings of light began to break forth in me, which let me see my inward state and condition towards God. The light, which before had shone in my darkness, and the darkness could not comprehend it, began now to shine out of darkness, and in some measure discovered to me what it was that had before clouded me and brought that sadness and trouble upon me. Now I saw that although I had been in a great degree preserved from the common immoralities and gross pollutions of the world, yet the spirit of the world had thus far ruled in me, and led me into pride, flattery, vanity, and superfluity, all which was nothing. I found there were many plants growing in me which were not of the heavenly Father's planting, and that all these, of whatever sort or kind they were, or however deceptively pleasing they might appear, must be plucked up.
Now was all my former life ripped up, and my sins by degrees were set in order before me. Although they looked not with so black a hue and so deep a dye as those of the lewdest sort of people did, yet I found that all sin, (even what had the fairest or finest show, as well as what was more course and foul), brought guilt, and with and for guilt, condemnation on the soul that sinned. This I felt, and was greatly bowed down under the sense of it.
Now I also received a new law - an inward law superimposed over the outward - the law of the spirit of life in Christ Jesus, which wrought in me against all evil, not only in deed and in word, but even in thought also; so that everything was brought to judgment, and judgment passed upon all. So that I could not any longer go on in my former ways and course of life, for when I did, judgment took hold upon me for it.
Thus the Lord was graciously pleased to deal with me in somewhat like manner as he had dealt with His people Israel of old when they had transgressed His righteous law, whom by His prophet He called back, required to put away the evil of their doings, bidding them first cease to do evil, then learn to do well, before He would admit them to reason with Him, and before He would impart to them the effects of His free mercy, (Isaiah 1:16,27).
I was now required by this inward and spiritual law, “the law of the spirit of life in Christ Jesus,” to put away the evil of my doings, and to cease to do evil; and what in particular the evil was which I was required to put away and to cease from, that measure of the Divine Light which was now manifested in me discovered to me, and what the light made manifest to be evil, judgment passed upon.
So that here began to be a way cast up before me for me to walk in - a direct and plain way, so plain that a wayfaring man, however weak and simple, (though a fool to the wisdom and in the judgment of the world), could not err while he continued to walk in it, the error coming in by his going out of it. I saw this way with respect to me was that measure of Divine Light which was manifested in me, by which the evil of my doings, which I was to put away and to cease from, was discovered to me.
By this Divine Light, then, I saw that though I had not the evil of the common uncleanness, debauchery, profaneness, and pollutions of the world to put away, because I had, through the great goodness of God and a civil education, been preserved out of those grosser evils, yet I had many other evils to put away and to cease from; some of which were not by the world, which lies in wickedness, (1 John 5:19), accounted evils; but by the light of Christ were made manifest to me to be evils, and as such condemned in me.
As particularly those fruits and effects of pride that discover themselves in the vanity and superfluity of apparel; which I, as far as my ability would extend to, took, alas! too much delight in. This evil of my doings I was required to put away and cease from; and judgment lay upon me until I did so. Therefore, in obedience to the inward law, which agreed with the outward, (1 Tim 2:9; 1 Pet 3: 3; 1 Tim 6:8; James 1:21), I took off from my apparel those unnecessary trimmings of lace, ribbons, and useless buttons, which had no real service, but were set on only for what was by mistake called ornament; and I ceased to wear rings.
Again, the giving of flattering titles to men between whom and me there was not any relation to which such titles could be pretended to belong. This was an evil I had been much addicted to, and was accounted a ready artist in; therefore I was also required to put away and cease from this evil practice. So that then on I dared not say, Sir, Master, My Lord, Madam, (or My Dame); or say Your Servant to anyone to whom I did not stand in the real relation of a servant, which I had never done to any.
Again, respect of persons [partiality to certain classes, professions, etc.), in uncovering the head and bowing the knee or body in salutation, was a practice I had been much in the use of; and this, being one of the vain customs of the world, introduced by the spirit of the world. Instead of the true honor, this is a false representation and used in deceit as a token of respect by persons one to another, who bear no real respect one to another; and, besides, this being a type and proper emblem of that divine honor which all ought to pay to Almighty God, and which all of all sorts, who take upon them the Christian name, appear in when they offer their prayers to Him, and therefore should not be given to men. I found this to be one of those evils which I had been too long doing; therefore I was now required to put it away and cease from it.
Again, the corrupt and unsound form of speaking in the plural number to a single person, you to one, instead of thou, contrary to the pure, plain, and single language of truth, thou to one, and you to more than one, which had always been used , by God to men, and men to God, as well as one to another, from the oldest record of time until corrupt men, (or corrupt ends), in later and corrupt times, to flatter, fawn, and work upon the corrupt nature in men, brought in that false and senseless way of speaking you to one; which has since corrupted the modern languages, and has greatly debased the spirits and depraved the manners of men; this evil custom I had been as forward in as others, and this I was now called out of and required to cease from.
These and many more evil customs which had sprung up in the night of darkness and general apostasy from the truth and true religion, were now, by the shining of this pure ray of Divine Light in my conscience, gradually discovered to me to be what I ought to cease from, shun, and stand a witness against.
But so subtly and withal so powerfully did the enemy work upon the weak part in me, as to persuade me that in these things I ought to make a difference between my father and all other men; and that therefore, though I did disuse these tokens of respect to others, yet I ought still to use them towards him, as he was my father. So far did this wile of his prevail upon me, through a fear lest I should do amiss in withdrawing any sort of respect or honor from my father which was due unto him, that being thereby beguiled, I continued for awhile to demean myself in the same manner towards him, with respect both to language and gesture, as I had always done before. And so long as I did so, (standing bare before him, and giving him the accustomed language), he did not express - whatever he thought - any dislike of me. But as to myself and the work begun in me, I found it was not enough for me to cease to do evil, though that was a good start and a great step. I had another lesson before me, which was to learn to do well; which I could by no means do until I had given up with full purpose of mind to cease from doing evil. When I had done that, the enemy took advantage of my weakness to mislead me again.
For whereas I ought to have waited in the light for direction and guidance into and in the way of well-doing, and not to have moved until the Divine Spirit, (a manifestation of which the Lord has been pleased to give unto me for me to profit with or by), the enemy, transforming himself into the appearance of an angel of light, offered himself in that appearance to be my guide and leader into the performance of religious exercises. I, not then knowing the wiles of Satan, and being eager to be doing some acceptable service to God, too readily yielded myself to the conduct of my enemy instead of my friend.
He then, humoring the warmth and zeal of my spirit, put me upon religious performances in my own will, in my own time, and in my own strength; which in themselves were good, and would have been profitable unto me and acceptable unto the Lord, if they had been performed in His will, in His time, and in the ability which He gives. But being wrought in the will of man and at the prompting of the evil one, no wonder that it did me hurt instead of good.
I read abundantly in the Bible, and would set myself tasks in reading, enjoining myself to read so many chapters, sometimes a whole book or long epistle, at a time. I thought that time well spent, though I was not much the wiser for what I had read, reading it too cursorily, and without the true Guide, the Holy Spirit, which alone could open the understanding and give the true sense of what was read.
I prayed often, and drew out my prayers to a great length, and appointed unto myself certain set times to pray at, and a certain number of prayers to say in a day; yet knew not meanwhile what true prayer was, which stands not in words, though the words which are uttered in the movings of the Holy Spirit are very available, but in the breathing of the soul to the heavenly Father through the operation of the Holy Spirit, who makes intercession sometimes in words and sometimes with sighs and groans only, which the Lord promises to hear and answer.
This will-worship, which all is that is performed in the will of man and not in the movings of the Holy Spirit, was a great hurt to me, and hindrance of my spiritual growth in the way of truth. But my heavenly Father, who knew the sincerity of my soul to Him and the hearty desire I had to serve Him, had compassion on me, and in due time was graciously pleased to illuminate my understanding further, and to open in me an eye to discern the false spirit, and its way of working from the true, and to reject the former and cleave to the latter.
But though the enemy had by his subtlety gained such advantages over me, yet I went on notwithstanding, and firmly persisted in my godly resolution of ceasing from and denying those things which I was now convinced in my conscience were evil.
I was sent by my father on an errand to the Quarter Sessions court in Oxfordshire. When I had set up my horse I went directly to the hall where the sessions were held, where I had been but a very little while before a knot of my old acquaintances, seeing me, came to me. One of these was a scholar in his gown, another a surgeon of that city, (both my school-fellows and fellow boarders at Thame school), and the third a country gentleman with whom I had long been familiar.
When they had come up to me they all saluted me after the usual manner, pulling off their hats and bowing, and saying, "Your humble servant, sir," expecting no doubt the like from me. But when they saw me stand still, not moving my cap, nor bowing my knee in way of bow to them, they were amazed, and looked first one upon another, then upon me, and then one upon another again, for a while, without speaking a word.
At length the surgeon, a brisk young man, who stood nearest to me, clapping his hand in a familiar way upon my shoulder, and smiling on me, said, “What, Tom! a Quaker?” To which I readily and cheerfully answered, “Yes, a Quaker." As the words passed out of my mouth I felt joy spring in my heart; for I rejoiced that I had not been drawn out by them into a compliance with them, and that I had strength and boldness given me to confess myself to be one of that despised people.
They did not stay long with me or say any more to me, that I can remember; but looking somewhat confusedly one upon another, after a while took their leave of me, going off in the same ceremonious manner as they had arrived.
But notwithstanding that I found peace and acceptance with the Lord in some good degree, according to my obedience to the convictions I had received by His holy Spirit in me, yet the veil was not so done away, or fully rent, but that there still remained a cloud upon my understanding with respect to my carriage towards my father. That notion, which the Enemy had brought into my mind, that I ought to put such a difference between him and all others as that, on account of the paternal relation, I should still conduct myself towards him, both in gesture and language, as I had always previously done, did yet prevail with me. So that when I came home, I went to my father bareheaded, as I used to do, and gave him a particular account of the business he had given me in command, in such manner that he, observing no alteration in my carriage towards him, found no cause to take offence at me.
I had felt for some time before an earnest desire of mind to go again to Isaac Penington's, and I began to question whether, when my father should come, (as I concluded before long he would), to understand I inclined to settle among the people called Quakers, he would permit me the command of his horses, as before. Therefore, in the morning when I went to Oxford I gave directions to a servant of his to go that day to a gentleman of my acquaintance, who I knew had a riding nag to put off either by sale or to be kept for his work, and desired him, in my name, to send him to me; which he did, and I found him in the stable when I came home.
On this nag I planned to ride next day to Isaac Penington's, and so I prepared; but because I would pay all due respects to my father, and not go without his consent, or knowledge at the least, I sent one up to him, (for he was not yet stirring), to acquaint him that I had a purpose to go to Isaac Penington’s, and desired to know if he pleased to command me any service to them. He sent me word he would speak with me before I went, and would have me come up to him, which I did, and stood by his bedside. Then, in a mild and gentle tone, he said: “I understand you have a mind to go to Mr. Penington's." I answered, "I have so.” “Why," he said, “I wonder why you should? You were there, you know, but a few days ago, and unless you had business with them, don't you think it will look oddly?" I said, “I thought not." "I doubt," he said, “you'll tire them with your company, and make them think they shall be troubled with you."- "If," I replied, "I find anything of that, I'll make the shorter stay." “But," he said, "can you propose any sort of business with them, more than a mere visit?" "Yes," I said, " I propose to myself not only to see them, but to have some discussion with them." “Why," he said, in a tone a little harsher, "I hope you don't incline to be of their way." "Truly," I answered, "I like them and their way very well, so far as I yet understand it; and I am willing to go to them that I may understand it better."
Then he began to reckon up a list of faults against the Quakers, telling me they were a rude, unmannerly, people, that would not give civil respect or honor to their superiors, no not to magistrates; that they held many dangerous principles; that they were an immodest shameless people; and that one of them stripped himself stark naked,* and went in that unseemly manner about the streets, at fairs and on market days in great towns.
To all the other charges I answered only, "That perhaps they might be either misreported or misunderstood, as the best of people had sometimes been.” But to the last charge of going naked, a particular answer, by way of instance, was just then brought into my mind and put into my mouth, which I had not thought of before, and that was the example of Isaiah, who went naked among the people for a long time (Isa. 20:2). “Yes," said my father, "but you must consider that he was a prophet of the Lord, and had an express command from God to go so."- "Yes, sir," I replied, "I do consider that; but I consider also, that the Jews, among whom he lived, did not own him for a prophet, nor believe that he had such a command from God. And," I added, “how do we know but that this Quaker may be a prophet too, and might be commanded to do as he did, for some reason which we do not understand?"
This put my father to a stand; so that, letting fall his charges against the Quakers, he only said, “I would wish you not to go so soon, but take a little time to consider of it; you may visit Mr. Penington later." "No sir," I replied, "pray don't hinder my going now, for I have so strong a desire to go that I do not well know how to withstand." And as I spoke those words, I withdrew gently to the chamber door, and then hastening down stairs, went immediately to the stable, where finding my horse ready bridled, I quickly mounted, and went off, for fear I should receive a countermand.
This discussion with my father had cast me somewhat back in my journey, and it being fifteen long miles there, the ways bad, and my nag but small, it was in the afternoon that I got there. Understanding by the servant that took my horse that there was a meeting in the house, (as there was weekly on that day, which was the fourth day of the week, though until then I understood it not), I hastened in, and knowing the rooms, went directly to the little parlor, where I found a few friends sitting together in silence, and I sat down among them well satisfied, though without words. When the meeting was ended, and those of the company who were strangers withdrawn, I addressed myself to Isaac Penington and his wife, who received me courteously; but not knowing what exercise I had been in, and yet was under, nor having heard anything of me since I had been there before in another garb, were not forward at first to lay sudden hands on me; which I observed, and did not dislike. But as they came to see a change in me, not in habit only, but in gesture, speech, and carriage, and, which was more, in countenance also (for the exercise I had passed through, and yet was under, had imprinted a visible character of gravity upon my face), they were exceeding kind and tender towards me.
There was then in the family a friend whose name was Anne Curtis, the wife of Thomas Curtis, of Reading, who had come upon a visit to them, and particularly to see Mary Penington's daughter Guli, who had been ill of the small-pox since I had been there before. Between Mary Penington and this friend I observed some private discussion and whisperings, and I had an apprehension that it was upon something that concerned me. Therefore I took the freedom to ask Mary Penington if my coming there had occasioned any inconvenience in the family. She asked me if I ever had the small-pox; I told her no. She then told me her daughter had newly had them, and though she was well recovered of them, she had not as yet been down among them, but intended to have come down and sat with them in the parlor that evening, yet would rather pass until another time, than endanger me; and that that was the matter they bad been discussing. I assured her that I had always been, and then more especially was, free from any apprehension of danger in that respect, and therefore entreated that her daughter might come down. Although they were somewhat unwilling to yield to it, in regard to me, yet my importunity prevailed, and after supper she did come down and sit with us; and though the marks of the distemper were-fresh upon her, yet they made no impression upon me, faith keeping out fear.
We spent much of the evening in retirement of mind, our spirits being weightily gathered inward, so that not much discussion occurred among us; neither they to me, nor I to them offered any occasion. Yet I had good satisfaction in that stillness, feeling my spirit drawn near to the Lord, and to them therein.
Before I went to bed they let me know that there was to be a meeting at Wiccomb next day, and that some of the family would go to it. I was very glad of it, for I greatly desired to go to meetings, and this fell very fortunately, it being in my way home. Next morning Isaac Penington himself went, having Anne Curtis with him, and I accompanied them.
At Wiccomb we met with Edward Burrough. This was a monthly meeting, consisting of friends chiefly, who gathered to it from several parts of the country thereabouts, so that it was pretty large, and was held in a fair room in Jeremiah Stevens' house; the room where I had been at a meeting before, in John Raunce's house, being too small to receive us.
A very good meeting was this in itself and to me. Edward Burrough's ministry came forth among us in life and power, and the assembly was covered in it. I also, according to my small capacity, had a share in it; for I felt some of that divine power working my spirit into a great tenderness, and not only confirming me in the course I had already entered, and strengthening me to go on therein, but rending also the veil somewhat further, and clearing my understanding in some other things which I had not seen before. For the Lord was pleased to make His discoveries to me by degrees, that the sight of too great a work, and too many enemies to encounter with at once, might not discourage me and make me faint.
When the meeting had ended, the friends of the town taking notice that I was the man that had been at their meeting the week before, whom they then did not know, some of them came and spoke lovingly to me, and would have had me stay with them; but Edward Burrough going home with Isaac Penington, he invited me to go back with him, which I willingly consented to. For the love I had more particularly to Edward Burrough, through whose ministry I had received the first awakening stroke, drew me to desire his company; and so away we rode together.
But I was somewhat disappointed of my expectation, for I hoped he would have given me both opportunity and encouragement to have opened myself to him, and to have poured forth my complaints, fears, doubts and questionings into his bosom. But he, being sensible that I was truly reached, and that the witness of God was raised and the work of God rightly begun in me, chose to leave me to the guidance of the good Spirit in myself, (the Counselor that could resolve all doubts), that I might not be dependent on man. Therefore, although he was naturally of an open and free temper and carriage, and was afterwards always very familiar and affectionately kind to me, yet at this time he kept himself somewhat reserved and showed only common kindness to me.
Next day we parted. He for London, I for home, under a very great weight and exercise upon my spirit. For I now saw, in and by the farther openings of the Divine Light in me, that the enemy, by his false reasonings, had beguiled and misled me with respect to my carriage towards my father. For I now clearly saw that the honor due to parents did not consist in uncovering the head and bowing the body to them, but in a ready obedience to their lawful commands, and in performing all needful services unto them. Therefore, as I was greatly troubled for what I already had done in that case, though it was through ignorance, so I plainly felt I could no longer continue therein without drawing upon myself the guilt of willful disobedience; which I well knew would draw after it Divine displeasure and judgment.
Immediately the enemy assaulted me afresh, setting before me the danger I should run myself into of provoking my father to use severity towards me; and perhaps to be casting me utterly off. But over this temptation the Lord, to whom I cried, supported me, and gave me faith to believe that He would bear me through whatever might befall me on that account. Therefore I resolved, in the strength which He should give me, to be faithful to His requirements, whatever might come of it.
His Father Begins Beating Him for Being a Quaker
Thus laboring under various exercises on the way, I at length got home, expecting I should have but a rough reception from my father. But when I came home, I understood my father was away from home. Therefore I sat down by the fire in the kitchen, keeping my mind retired to the Lord, with breathings of spirit to Him, that I might be preserved from falling.
After some time I heard the coach drive in, which put me into a little fear, and a sort of shivering came over me. But by that time he had dismounted and come in, I had pretty well recovered myself; and as soon as I saw him, I rose up and advanced a step or two towards him with my head covered and said, “Isaac Penington and his wife remember their loves to thee.”
He made a stop to hear what I said, and observing that I I did not stand bare, [bare-headed, hat removed] and that I used the word thee to him, he, with a stem countenance and tone that spoke high displeasure only said, “I shall talk with you, sir, another time;" and so hastening from me, went into the parlor, and I saw him no more that night.
Though I foresaw there was a storm arising, the apprehension of which was uneasy to me, yet the peace which I felt in my own breast raised in me a return of thanksgiving to the Lord for His gracious supporting hand, which had thus far carried me through this exercise; with humble cries in spirit to Him that He would promise to stand by me in it to the end, and uphold me, that I might not fall.
My spirit longed to be among friends, and to be at some meeting with them on the First day, which now drew on, this being the Sixth-day night. Therefore I purposed to go to Oxford on the next day, (which was the Seventh day of the week), having heard there was a meeting there. Accordingly, having ordered my horse to be made ready before, I got up in the morning and made myself ready also. Yet before I would go, (that I might be as observant to my father as possibly I could), I desired my sister to go up to him in his chamber, and acquaint him that I had a mind to go to Oxford, and desired to know if he pleased to command me any service there. He told her tell me he would not have me go until he had spoken with me; and getting up immediately, he hastened down to me before he was quite dressed.
As soon as he saw me standing with my hat on, his passion transporting him, he fell upon me with both his fists, and having by that means somewhat vented his anger, he plucked off my hat and threw it away. Then stepping hastily out to the stable, and seeing my borrowed nag stand ready saddled and bridled, he asked his man where that horse came; who telling him he fetched it from Mr. _____what’s his name’s. "Then ride him presently back," said my father, "and tell Mr. ___ I desire he will never lend my son a horse again unless he brings a note from me."
The poor fellow, who loved me well, would willingly have made excuses and delays; but my father was positive in his command, and so urgent, that he would not let him stay so much as to take his breakfast, (though he had five miles to ride), nor would he himself stir from the stable until he had seen the man mounted and gone.
Then coming in, he went up into his chamber to make himself more fully ready, thinking he had me safe enough now my horse was gone; for I took so much delight in riding that I seldom went on foot.
But while he was dressing himself in his chamber I, (who understood what had been done), changing my boots for shoes, took another hat, and acquainting my sister, who loved me very well, and whom I could confide in, where I meant to go, went out privately, and walked away to Wiccomb, having seven long miles there, which yet seemed as little and easy to me, from the desire I had to be among friends.
As thus I traveled all alone, under a load of grief, from the sense I had of the opposition and hardship I was to expect from my father, the enemy took advantage to assault me again, casting a doubt into my mind whether I had done well in thus coming away from my father without his leave or knowledge.
I was quiet and peaceable in my spirit as before this question was darted into me; but after that, disturbance and trouble seized upon me, so that I was at a stand what to do — whether to go forward or backward. Fear of offending inclined me to go back, but desire of the meeting, and to be with friends, pressed me to go forward.
I stood still awhile to consider and weigh as well as I could I the matter. I was sensibly satisfied that I had not left my father with any intention of lack of duty or disrespect to him, but merely in obedience to that drawing of spirit, which I was persuaded was of the Lord, to join with His people in worshipping Him; and this made me easy.
But then the enemy, to make me uneasy again, objected, “But how could that drawing be of the Lord which drew me to disobey my father?"
I considered then the extent of paternal power, which I found was not wholly arbitrary and unlimited, but had bounds set unto it; so that as in civil matters it was restrained to things lawful; so in spiritual and religious cases it had not a compulsory power over conscience, which ought to be subject to the heavenly Father. Therefore, though obedience to parents is required to children yet it is with this limitation in the Lord: “Children, obey your parents in the Lord; for this is right,” (Eph 6:1).
This turned the scale for going forward, and so on I went. Yet I was not wholly free from some fluctuations of mind, from the attacks of the enemy. Therefore, although I knew that outward signs did not properly belong to the gospel dispensation, yet for my better assurance I did, in fear and great humility, beseech the Lord that He would be pleased so far to condescend to the weakness of His servant as to give me a sign by which I might certainly know whether my way was right before Him or not.
The sign which I asked was, "That if I had done wrong in coming as I did, I might be rejected or but coldly received at the place I was going to; but if this my undertaking was right in His sight, He would give me favor with them I went to, so that they should receive me with hearty kindness and demonstrations of love.” Accordingly, when I came to John Raunce's house, (which, being so much a stranger to all, I chose to go to, because I understood the meeting was commonly held there), they received me with more than ordinary kindness, especially Frances Raunce, John Raunce's then wife, who was both a grave and motherly woman, and had a hearty love to truth, and tenderness towards all that in sincerity sought after it. This so kind reception, confirming me in the belief that my undertaking was approved of by the Lord, gave great satisfaction and ease to my mind; and I was therefore thankful to the Lord.
Thus it fared with me there; but at home it fared otherwise with my father. He, supposing I had retired to my chamber when he took my hat from me, made no inquiry after me until evening came; and then, sitting by the fire and considering that the weather was very cold, he said to my sister, who sat by him: “Go up to your brother's chamber, and call him down; it may be he will sit there else, in a sullen fit, until he has caught cold.” “Alas! sir," she said, "he is not in his chamber, or in the house either.” At that my father, startling, said: “Why, where is he then?" "I know not, sir," she said, "where he is; but I know that when he saw you had sent away his horse he put on shoes, and went out on foot, and I have not seen him since. And indeed, sir," added she, “I don't wonder at his going away, considering how you used him." This put my father into a great fright, doubting I was gone quite away; land so great a passion of grief seized on him, that he wept, and cried out aloud, so that the family heard him: "Oh, my son! I shall never see him more; for he is of so bold and resolute a spirit that he will run himself into danger, and so may be thrown into some or other, where he may lie and die before I can hear of him." Then asking her to walk with a light, accompanying him up to his chamber, he went immediately to bed, where he lay restless and groaning, and often bemoaning himself and me, for the greater part of the night.
Next morning my sister sent a man, (whom for his love to me she knew she could trust), to give me this account; and though by him she sent me also fresh linen for my use, in case I should go farther or stay out longer, yet she desired me to come home as soon as I could.
This account was very uneasy to me. I was much grieved that I had occasioned so much grief to my father; and I would have returned that evening after the meeting, but the friends would not permit it, for the meeting would in all likelihood end late, the days being short, and the way was long and dirty. Besides, John Raunce told me that he had something on his mind to speak to my father, and that if I would stay until the next day he would go down with me, hoping, perhaps, that while my father was under this sorrow for me he might work some good upon him. Immediately concluding to stay until the morrow, I dismissed the man with the things he brought, bidding him tell my sister I intended, God willing, to return home tomorrow, and charging him not to let anybody else know that he had seen me, or where he had been.
Next morning John Raunce and I set out, and when we were come to the end of the town we agreed that he should go before and knock at the great gate, and I would come a little after, and go in by the back way. He did so; and when a servant came to open the gate he asked if the Justice was at home. She told him, yes; and desiring him to come in and sit down in the hall, went and acquainted her master that there was one who desired to speak with him. He, supposing it was one, that came for justice, went readily into the hall to him; but he was not a little surprised when he found it was a Quaker. Yet not knowing on what account he came, he stayed to hear his business; but when he found it was about me he fell somewhat sharply on him.
In this time I had come by the back way into the kitchen, and hearing my father's voice so loud, I began to doubt things wrought not well; but I was soon assured of that. For my father having quickly enough of a Quaker's company, left John Raunce in the hall, and came into the kitchen, where he was more surprised to find me.
The sight of my hat upon my head made him presently forget that I was that son of his whom he had so lately lamented as lost; and his passion of grief turning into anger, he could not contain himself, but running upon me with both his hands, first violently snatched off my hat and threw it away, then giving me some buffets on my head, he said, "Sirrah, get up to your chamber.”
I quickly went, he following me at the heels, and now and then giving me a blow on the ear, which, the way to my chamber lying through the hall where John Raunce was, he, poor man, might see and be sorry for, (as I doubt not but he was), but could not help me.
This was surely an unaccountable thing, that my father should but a day before express so high a sorrow for me, as fearing he should never see me any more, and yet now, so soon as he did see me, should fly upon me with such violence; and only because I did not put off my hat, which he knew I did not put on in disrespect to him, but upon a religious principle. But as this hat-honor, (as it was considered), had grown to be a great idol, in those times more especially, so the Lord was pleased to engage His servants in a steady testimony against it, whatever suffering was brought upon them for it. Though some who have been called into the Lord's vineyard at later hours, and since the heat of that day has been much over, may be apt to account this testimony a small thing for which to suffer so much, as some have done, not only to beating, but to fines and long and hard imprisonments; yet they who, in those times, were faithfully exercised in and under it, dared not despise the day of small things, as knowing that he who should do so would not be thought worthy to be concerned in higher testimonies.
I had now lost another one of my hats, and I only had one more. Therefore I put it on, but did not keep it long; for the next time my father saw it on my head he tore it violently from me, and laid it up with the other, I knew not where. Therefore I put on my mountier-cap,* which was all I had left to wear on my head, and it was but a very little while that I had that to wear, for as soon as my father came where I was, I lost that also. And now I was forced to go bareheaded wherever I had occasion to go, within doors and out of doors.**
This was in the eleventh month, called January, [the Julian calendar went from March to February] and the weather was sharp. I, who had been bred up more tenderly, took so great a cold in my head that my face and head were much swollen, and my gums had on them boils so sore that I could neither chew meat nor without difficulty swallow liquids. It held long, and I underwent much pain, without much pity except from my poor sister, who did what she could to give me ease; and at length, by frequent applications of figs and stoned raisins roasted, and laid to the boils as hot as I could bear them, they ripened fit for lancing, and soon after sunk; then I had ease.
Now I was laid up as a kind of prisoner for the rest of the winter, having no means to go forth among friends, nor they liberty to come to me. Therefore I spent much of the time in my chamber, in waiting on the Lord, and in reading, mostly in the Bible. But whenever I had occasion to speak to my father, though I had no hat now to offend him, yet my language did still did offend him; for I dared not say "you" to him, but only "thou" or "thee," as the occasion required, and then would he be sure to fall on me with his fists.
At one of these times, I remember, when he had beaten me in that manner, he commanded me, as he commonly did at such times, to go to my chamber, which I did, and he followed me to the bottom of the stairs. Arriving there, he gave me a parting blow, and in a very angry tone said: “Sirrah, if I ever hear you say ‘thou' or 'thee' to me again, I'll strike your teeth down your throat.” I was greatly grieved to hear him say so. Feeling a word rise in my heart unto him, I turned again, and calmly said unto him: "'Would it not be just if God should serve thee so, when thou says thou or thee to Him?" Though his hand was up, I saw it sink and his countenance fall, and he turned away and left me standing there. But despite this, I went up into my chamber and cried to the Lord, earnestly beseeching Him to please open my father's eyes, that he might see whom he fought against, and for what; and that He would turn his heart.
After this I had a pretty long time of rest and quiet from these disturbances, my father not saying anything to me, nor giving me occasion to say anything to him. But I was still under a kind of confinement, unless I would have run about the country bareheaded like a madman,* which I did not see it was my place to do. For I found that, although to be abroad and at liberty among my friends would have been more pleasant to me, yet home was at present my proper place, a school in which I was to learn with patience to bear the cross; and I willingly submitted to it.
But after some time a fresh storm, more fierce and sharp than any before, arose and fell upon me; the occasion thereof was this: My father, having been in his younger years, more especially while he lived in London, a constant hearer of those who are called Puritan preachers, had stored up a pretty stock of Scripture knowledge, did sometimes, (not constantly, nor very often), request his family to come together on a first day in the evening. There he would expound a chapter to them and pray. His family now, as well as his estate, was smaller; for my mother was dead, my brother gone, and my elder sister at London; and having put off his husbandry, he had put off with it most of his servants, so that he had now but one man and one maidservant. It so fell out that on a first-day night he told my sister, who sat with him in the parlor, to call in the servants to prayer.
Whether this was done as a test for me or not, I do not know, but it proved a trial to me; for they, loving me very well and disliking my father's carriage to me, made no haste to go in, but stayed until receiving a second summons. This so offended him that when at length they did go in, he, instead of going to prayer, examined them why they had not come in when they were first called; and the answer they gave him rather heightened than abated his displeasure. With an angry tone he said: "'Call in that fellow," (meaning me, who was left alone in the kitchen), “for he is the cause of all this.” Just as they were hesitant to go in without me, so they were not forward to call me in, fearing the effect of my father's displeasure would fall upon me, as it soon did; for I, hearing what was said, and not staying for the call, went in myself. As soon as I had come in, my father discharged his displeasure on me in very sharp and bitter expressions, which drew from me, (in the grief of my heart, to see him so transported with passion), these few words: “They that can pray with such a spirit, let them; for my part, I cannot.” With that my father flew upon me with both his fists, and not thinking that sufficient, stepped hastily to the place where his cane stood, and catching that up, laid on me, I thought, with all his strength. Being bareheaded, I thought his blows must needs have broken my skull had I not laid my arm over my head to defend it.
His man seeing this, and not able to contain himself, stepped in between us, and laying hold on the cane, by strength of his hand held it as fast, that though he did not attempt to take it away, yet he withheld my father from striking with it, which only enraged him more. I disliked this in the man, and told him let go the cane and be gone, which he immediately did, and turning to be gone, had a blow on his shoulders for his pains, which did not much hurt him.
But now my sister, fearing my father would fall upon me again, sought him to cease, adding: "Indeed, sir, if you strike him any more, I will throw open the casement and cry out murder, for I am afraid you will kill my brother.” This stopped his hand, and after some threatening speeches he commanded me to get to my chamber, which I did, as I always did whenever he told me.
There, soon after, my sister followed me, to see my arm and dress it, for it was indeed very much bruised and swollen between the wrist and the elbow, and in some places the skin was broken and beaten often. Although it was very sore, and I felt for some time much pain in it, yet I had peace and quietness in my mind, being more grieved for my father than for myself who I knew had hurt himself more than me.
This was, as far as I remember, the last time that ever my father called his family to prayer; and this was also the last time that he ever fell, so severely at least, upon me.
The rest of the winter I spent in a lonesome solitary life, having none to converse with, none to unburden myself to, none to ask counsel of, none to seek relief from, but the Lord alone, who yet was more than all. Yet the company and society of faithful and judicious friends would, I thought, have been very welcome as well as helpful to me in my spiritual travel, in which I thought I made slow progress, my soul breathing after further attainments, the sense of which drew from me the following lines :
The Peningtons Sent to the Rescue
At length it pleased the Lord to move Isaac Penington and his wife to make a visit to my father, and see how it fared with me; and very welcome they were to me, whatever they were to him; to whom I doubt not but they would have been more welcome had it not been for me.
They tarried with us all night, and much discussion they had with my father, both about the principles of truth in general, and me in particular, which I was not privy to. But one thing I remember I afterwards heard of, which was this: When my father and I were at their house some months before, Mary Penington, in some discussion between them, had told him how hardly her husband's father, (Alderman Penington), had dealt with him about his hat; which my father, (little then thinking that it would, and so soon too, be his own case), did very much censure the alderman for, wondering that as wise a man as he was should take notice of such a trivial thing as the putting off or keeping on a hat; and he spared not to blame him liberally for it.
This gave her a handle to take hold of him by; and having had an ancient acquaintance with him, and he having always had a high opinion of and respect for her, she, who was a woman of great wisdom, of ready speech, and of a well resolved spirit, did press her argument home and so close upon him with this home that he was utterly at a loss how to defend himself.
After dinner next day, when they were ready to take coach to return home, she desired my father that, since my company was so little acceptable to him, he would give me leave to go and spend some time with them, where I should be sure to be welcome.
He was very unwilling I should go, and made many objections against it, all which she answered and removed so clearly, that not finding what excuse further to allege, he at length left it to me, and I soon turned the scale for going. We were come to the coach-side before this was concluded on, and I was ready to step in, when one of my sisters privately put my father in mind that I had did not have a hat on. That somewhat startled him, for he did not think it proper that I leave home, (so far away and to stay), without a hat. Therefore he whispered to her to fetch me a hat, and he entertained them with some discussion in the meantime. But as soon as he saw the hat coming, he stopped talking and departed to inside the house for fear that I would put it on before him.
I had not one penny of money about me, nor any indeed elsewhere; for my father, as soon as he saw that I would be a Quaker, took from me both what money I had and everything else of value, or that would have made money, as some plate buttons, rings, etc., pretending that he would keep them for me until I came to myself again, for fear I in the meantime should destroy them.
Great was the love and manifold the kindness which I received from these my worthy friends, Isaac and Mary Penington, while I lived in their family. They were indeed as affectionate parents and tender nurses to me in this time of my religious childhood. For besides their weighty and seasonable counsels and exemplary conversations, they furnished me with means to go to the other meetings of Friends in that country, when the meeting was not in their own house. Indeed, the time I stayed with them was so well spent, that it not only yielded great satisfaction to my mind but turned in good measure to my spiritual advantage in the truth.
But that I might not, on the one hand, bear too hard upon my friends, nor on the other hand forget the house of thralldom, after I had stayed with them some six or seven weeks, (from the time called Easter to the time called Whitsuntide), I took my leave of them to depart home, intending to walk to Wycombe [also Wiccom] in one day, and from there home in another day.
That day that I came home I did not see my father, nor until noon the next day, when I went into the parlor, where he was, to take my usual place at dinner.
As soon as I came in I observed by my father's countenance that my hat was still an offence to him; but when I had sat down, and before I had eaten anything, he made me understand it more fully by saying to me, but in a milder tone than he had formerly used to speak to me in, "If you cannot content yourself to come to dinner without your hat on your head, pray rise, and go take your dinner somewhere else.”
Upon those words I arose from the table, and leaving the room went into the kitchen, where I stayed until the servants went to dinner, and then sat down very contentedly with them. Yet I suppose my father might intend that I should have gone into some other room, and there have eaten by myself, but I chose rather to eat with the servants, and did so from then on so long as he and I lived together. From this time he rather chose, as I thought, to avoid seeing me than to renew the quarrel about my hat.
Having informed myself where any meetings of Friends were held, within a reasonable distance from me, I resorted to them.
At first I went to a town called Haddenham, in Buckinghamshire, five miles from my father's, where, at the house of one Belson, a few who were called Quakers met sometimes on a first day of the week; but I found little satisfaction there. Afterwards, upon further inquiry, I understood there was a settled meeting at a little village called Meadle, about four long miles from me, in the house of one John White, which is continued there still; where I constantly went while I lived in that country, and was able. Many a hard day's travel have I had there and back again, being commonly in the winter time, (whatever the weather was overhead), wet up to the ankles at least; yet, through the goodness of the Lord to me, I was preserved in health.
There was also a little meeting on the fourth day of the week at a town called Bledlow, (two miles from me), in the house of one Thomas Saunders, who professed the truth; but his wife, whose name was Damaris, did possess it, (she being a woman of great sincerity and lively sense); and I usually went to that meeting.
But though I took this liberty for the service of God, that I might worship Him in the assemblies of His people, yet did I not use it upon other occasions, but spent my time on other days for the most part in my chamber, in retired of mind, waiting on the Lord. The Lord was graciously pleased to visit me, by His quickening spirit and life, so that I came to feel the operation of His power in my heart, working out what was contrary to His will, and giving me, in measure, dominion over it.
As my spirit was kept in due subjection to this Divine power, I grew into a nearer acquaintance with the Lord; and the Lord promised to speak unto me in the inward of my soul, and to open my understanding in His fear, to receive counsel from Him; so that I not only some times heard His voice, but could distinguish His voice from the voice of the enemy.
As thus I daily waited on the Lord, a weighty and unusual exercise came upon me, which bowed my spirit very low before the Lord. I had seen, in the light of the Lord, the horrible guilt of those deceitful priests, of many sorts and denominations, who made a trade of preaching, and for filthy lucre sake held the people always learning; yet taught them so that by their teaching and ministry they were never able to come to the knowledge, much less to the acknowledgment, of the truth; for as they themselves hated the light, because their own deeds were evil, so by reviling, reproaching, and blaspheming the true light, every man that comes into the world is enlightened, (John 1:9), they taught the people to disregard the light, and labored as much as in them lay to keep their hearers in the darkness, that they might not be turned to the light in themselves, lest by the light they should discover the wickedness of these their deceitful teachers, and turn from them.
Against this practice of these false teachers the zeal of the Lord had flamed in my breast for some time; and now the burden of the word of the Lord against them fell heavily upon me, with command to proclaim His controversy against them.
I would have willingly been excused from this service, which I judged too heavy for me. Therefore I sought the Lord to take this weight from off me, who was in every respect still young, and lay it upon some other of His servants, of whom He had many who were much more able and fit for it. But the Lord would not be convinced, but continued the burden upon me with greater weight; requiring obedience from me, and promising to assist me with it. At which point I arose from my bed, and in the fear and dread of the Lord committed to writing what He, in the motion of His Divine Spirit, dictated to me to write. When I had done it, although the sharpness of the message within delivered was hard to my nature to be the published, yet I found acceptance with the Lord in my obedience to His will, and His peace filled my heart. As soon as I could I communicated to my friends what I had written; and it was printed in the year 1660, in one sheet of paper, under the title of “An Alarm to the Priests; or, A Message from Heaven to Forewarn Them."
Some time after the publishing of this paper, having occasion to go to London, I went to visit George Fox* the younger, who with another Friend was then a prisoner in a messenger's hands. I had never seen him, nor he me before; yet this paper lying on the table before him, he, pointing to it, asked me if I was the person that wrote it. I told him I was. “It's much,” said the other Friend, “that they bear it." “It is," replied he, “their portion, and they must bear it."
While I was then in London I went to a little meeting of Friends, which was then held in the house of one Humphrey Bache, a goldsmith, at the sign of the Snail, in Tower Street. It was then a very troublesome time, not from the government, but from the rabble of boys and rude people, who upon the turn of the time, (at the return of the King), took liberty to be very abusive.
When the meeting had ended, a number of these unruly folk had gotten together at the door, ready to receive the Friends as they came forth, not only with evil words, but with blows, which I saw they bestowed freely on some of them that were gone out before me, and expected I should have my share of when I came among them, But, quite contrary to my expectation, when I came out, they said one to another, “Let him alone; don't meddle with him; he is no Quaker, I'll warrant you.”
This struck me, and was worse to me than if they had laid I their fists on me, as they did on others. I was troubled to I think what the matter was, or what these rude people saw in me that made them not take me for a Quaker. Upon a close examination of myself, with respect to my habit and deportment, I could not find anything to place it on, but that in the custody of the sergeant-at-arms, I had then on my head a large mountier-cap of black velvet, the skirt of which being turned up in folds, looked, it seems, somewhat above the then common garb of a Quaker; and this put me out of conceit with my cap.
I came at this time to London from Isaac Penington's, and there I went again in my way home; and while I stayed there, among other Friends who came there, Thomas Loe,* of Oxford, was one. A faithful and diligent laborer he was in the work of the Lord, and an excellent ministerial gift he had. In my zeal for truth, being very desirous that my neighbors might have the opportunity of hearing the gospel, the glad tidings of salvation, livingly and powerfully preached among them, I entered into communication with him about it; offering to procure some convenient place in the town where I lived for a meeting to be held, and to invite my neighbors to it, if he could give me any ground to expect his company at it. He told me he was not at his own command, but at the Lord's, and he knew not how He might dispose of him; but wished me, if I found when I had come home that the thing continued with weight upon my mind, and that I could get a fit place for a meeting, I would advise him of it by a few lines directed to him in Oxford, where he was then going, and he might then let me know how his freedom stood in that matter.
When therefore I had come home, and had agreed with a neighbor for a place to have a meeting in, I wrote to my friend Thomas Loe, to acquaint him that I had procured a place for a meeting, and would invite company to it, if he would fix the time, and give me some ground to hope that he would be at it.
This letter I sent by a neighbor to Thame to be given to a dyer of Oxford, who constantly kept Thame market, with whom I was pretty well acquainted, having sometimes formerly used him not only in his way of trade, but to carry letters between my brother and me when he was a student in that University, for which he was always paid; and had been so careful in the delivery that our letters had always gone safe until now. But this time, (Providence so ordering, or at least for my trial permitting it), this letter of mine, instead of it being delivered according to its direction, was seized and was carried, as I was told, to the Lord Faulkland, who was then called Lord Lieutenant of that county.
The occasion of this stopping of letters at that time was that mad prank of those infatuated Fifth-Monarchy* men, who from their meeting-house in Coleman Street, London, breaking forth in arms, under the command of their chieftain, Venner, made an insurrection in the city, on pretence of setting up the kingdom of Jesus, who, it is said, they expected would come down from heaven to be their leader; so little understood they the nature of His kingdom, though He Himself had declared it was not of this world.
The King, a little before his arrival in England, had by his declaration from Breda given assurance of liberty to tender consciences, and that no man should be disquieted or called in question for difference of opinion in matters of religion who do not disturb the peace of the kingdom. Upon this assurance dissenters of all sorts relied, and held themselves to be secure. But now, by this frantic action of a few hot-brained men, the King was by some held discharged from his royal word and promise, in his foregoing declaration publicly given. Immediately letters were intercepted and broken open, for discovery of suspected plots and designs against the government; and not only dissenters' meetings of all sorts, without distinction, were disturbed, but very many were imprisoned in most parts throughout the nation; and great search there was in all countries for suspected persons, who, if not found at meetings, were fetched in from their own houses.
The Lord Lieutenant, (so called), of Oxfordshire had on this
occasion taken Thomas Loe and many others of our friends at
a meeting, and sent them prisoners to Oxford Castle, just
before my letter was brought to his hand, in which I had
invited Thomas Loe to a meeting; and he, putting the worst
construction upon it, as if I, a poor simple lad, had intended
a seditious meeting, in order to raise rebellion, ordered two of
the deputy-lieutenants who lived nearest to me to send a
party of horse to bring me in.
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