AN EPISTLE, BY WAY OF PREFACE
He frequently ministered side-by-side with George Fox, so he knew him well and speaks with authority. His majory work, the Journal of his amazing life in on this site.
I confess, I have not read or heard all the epistles in the ensuing collection but many of them, which I know to be very seasonable, weighty and necessary; and therefore have cause to believe so of the rest, which I have not read. But, by our long and frequent conversation, knowledge, and intimacy, (together with his living and revived testimonies, his godly care and zeal for truth's honor and prosperity), I have deeply read and known the author, his unfeigned love, innocence, and integrity in the blessed living truth, whose Christian care, (among many other things, relating to the churches of Christ, the union, good order and discipline thereof), greatly was, that no offence in anything might be given; that the ministry might not be blamed; well knowing what trials and proofs attended Christ's ministers and ministry in these latter days, (in some degree), as in the primitive Christians' times; namely, that he, with many others in his day, approved himself, and themselves, as the ministers of Christ, in much patience, in deep afflictions, in necessities, in distresses, (and some in stripes and cruel beatings), in prisons, in tumults, in labors, by watchings and by fastings, by purity, by knowledge, by long suffering, by kindness, by the holy ghost, by love unfeigned, by the word of truth, by the power of God, by the armor of righteousness, on the right hand, and on the left, by honor and dishonor, by evil report and good report; as deceivers, and yet true. As detailed in 2 Corinthians Chapter 6, which proofs God's ministers, this his ancient servant had a deep share, and the true root of the matter was in him, far beyond his expressions.
And though many false predictions, prophecies, and cruel threats were early breathed out by persecutors and envious spirits against him, and us his friends and brethren, whom he without feigning loved, and against his and our holy profession, way, and testimony, as if in a very short time all would come to nothing, and be laid waste; yet they have all been disappointed, and proved false, and his Christian living testimony and work further manifested to be of God, and not of men, nor of the will of man. For truth, that is strongest of all, has still prevailed, and must prevail. And though the memory of this our deceased brother and faithful servant of Jesus Christ, be still greatly envied, and be most grossly defamed, by some implacable adversaries, and hardened apostates, who could not obtain their evil ends and destructive designs against him in his life time; yet his memory is truly precious to many thousands, who truly fear God and love his truth, who have a true inward sense, that such a divine power and providence attended him in his innocent Christian testimony, ministry, labors, and sufferings, that the devil and all persecuting agents, could never stop nor frustrate his testimony or service, in turning many to righteousness, even from darkness unto light, and from the power of Satan unto God.
In many of the ensuing epistles, he often mentions the seed, the life, the power of God, and the like; whereby he intends no other than what the holy scriptures testify of Christ; which, we know, he truly loved and esteemed, and was often conversant in reading of them, and had an excellent memory and spiritual sense thereof given him of the Lord. By the pure holy seed, he meant and declared Christ, the promised seed; wherein all the promises of God are yes and amen. And as Christ is the word of God, the word of life, the word of faith, he is that immortal and incorruptible seed, of which all true and spiritual believers, and children of the light are begotten to God, and born again; and which seed, or word of eternal life, abides in him that is born of God, and sins not because thereof. (1 John 3:9). And as the generation of God, and children of his kingdom, and of the promise, they are called the good seed, and counted for the seed, being born of that incorruptible seed, or word of life, which endures forever, (1 Pet 1:23) ; and being that blessed seed and holy generation, which was foretold Christ should see, and for which the travail of his soul was. (Isaiah Chapter 53).
This our deceased friend and servant of Jesus Christ truly testified of him in all respects, both as come in the flesh and in the spirit, both as Christ was and is our only mediator and advocate, and as he was and is God over all, blessed forever; whom he so dearly loved and honored, that he often offered up his life, and deeply suffered for him; and that in dear and constant love to his seed, that a holy generation might be raised, strengthened, and increased in the earth among the children of men. And his knowledge and ministry of our Lord Jesus Christ, being after the spirit, in life and power, did in no ways imply any lessening of the dignity or glory of Christ, nor any defect of faith or love to Christ, as he came and suffered in the flesh for mankind, as some adversaries have injuriously misrepresented and aspersed him; for he highly esteemed Christ's sufferings, death, resurrection, and glory; and powerfully testified of the virtue, power, blessed and spiritual design, fruit, and effects thereof, as revealed and witnessed by his holy spirit. And as we have no cause to question, but that with this innocent and good man, 'to live was Christ;' so, 'to die was gain' in both which he glorified God.
Christ Jesus being our spiritual rock, foundation, and head, he is truly precious to us and all true believers, in all states and conditions, both of his humiliation, glory, and dominion; his great grace and goodness appearing in those precious ministerial gifts given by him, (when he ascended up on high), for his ministry and church.
And it is very observable, that though to express Christ's lowly condition and appearance in the world, he is sometimes in holy scripture termed the seed, his name also is called 'wonderful counselor, the mighty God, the everlasting Father, the prince of peace; upon whose shoulder's the government is laid: and of the increase of his government and peace there shall be no end, (Isaiah Chapter 9).
And it is most suitable to Christ's low, humble, and suffering condition, to make use of such instruments as are most like himself in humility and lowliness of mind; although they be but low and mean in the world's eye and esteem. God is pleased to make choice of low, mean, and weak things, and of instruments contemptible in the eyes of the high and lofty ones of this world, to confound the wisdom of the world, according to 1 Corinthians Chapter 1. He chose poor shepherds to divulge that great evangelical truth of Christ's birth; and certain women to preach that gospel truth of his resurrection. (Luke 2 and 24). And both from angelical testimony, and from their sight of Christ himself. Truth must not be rejected because of such instruments which God in his wisdom is pleased to employ in his work; nor the day of small things despised. From small beginnings of good matters, great things, glorious attainments and perfections spring. Glory, honor, and dominion to our most gracious God, and to the Lamb on his throne, forever and ever.
Now, dear and well beloved friends, all live in love and peace, following the true
faith, peaceable and good example of the faithful in Christ, and the God of love
and peace will be with you.
INTRODUCTION TO EPISTLES
A Testimony, how the Lord sent George Fox forth at first,
WHEN the Lord first sent me forth in the year 1643, I was sent as an innocent
lamb (and young in years) among (men in the nature of) wolves, dogs, bears,
lions, and tigers into the world, which the devil had made like a wilderness, no
right way then found out of it. And I was sent 'To turn people from darkness to
the light,' with which Christ, the second Adam, did enlighten them; that so they
might see Christ, their way to God, with the spirit of God, which he pours
upon all flesh, that with it they might have an understanding to know the things of
God, and to know him, and his son Jesus Christ, which is eternal life; and so
might worship and serve the living God, their maker and creator, who takes care
for all, who is Lord of all; and with the light and spirit of God they might know
the scriptures, which were given forth from the spirit of God in the saints, and
holy men and women of God.
Concerning the first spreading of the truth,
And the truth stood all the cruelties and sufferings that were inflicted upon Friends by the long-parliament, (to the spoiling of goods, imprisonment, and death, and over all the reproaches, lies, and slanders), and then by Oliver Cromwell, protector, and all the acts that Oliver made and his parliaments, and his son Richard after him; and the committee of safety. And after, it withstood and lasted out all the acts and proclamations since 1660 that the king came in. And still the Lord's truth is over all, and his seed reigns, his truth exceedingly spreads unto this year, 1676.
Friends never feared their acts, nor prisons, nor jails, nor houses of correction, nor banishments, nor spoiling of goods; no , nor life itself. And there was never any persecution, that came, but we saw it was for good; and we looked upon it to be good, as from God. There was never any prisons, that I was in, or sufferings, but still it was for the bringing multitudes more out of prison. For they that imprisoned the truth, and quenched the spirit in themselves, would prison it, and quench it without them. So that there was a time, when there were so many in prison, that it became as a by-word, truth was scarcely anywhere to be found but in jails.
And after that the king came in, many Friends suffered much, because they would not drink the king's health, and say, 'God bless the king ' so that many times Friends were in danger of their lives by rude persons, who were ready to run them through with their swords for refusing it; until the king gave forth a proclamation against drinking healths. For we were and are against all drinking healths and excess, both before his coming in, and after; and we desire the king's good, and that the blessings of God might come upon him, and all his subjects, and all people upon the face of the earth. And we did desire people not to drink the king's health, but let him have his health, and all people else; and so to drink for their own health and necessity only. For that way of drinking healths, and to excess, was not for the king's health, nor their own, nor any others. Which excess often brought forth quarrelling and destroying one another; for they destroyed the creation, and one another. And this was not for the king's wealth, nor health, nor honor; but might grieve him to have the creatures destroyed, and his subjects. And so the Lord's power gave us dominion over that also, and all our other sufferings.
But oh, the number of sufferers in the commonwealth's days, and in the protector's days, and since! But especially they that were haled before their courts for not paying tithes, and not swearing in their juries, and for not putting off their hats, and for going to meetings on the First-days, (under pretence of breaking the Sabbath), and other meetings in the week-days; who were abused both in the meetings, and on the highways! Oh, how great were the sufferings we then sustained for those reasons! For sometimes they would drive Friends by droves into the prison-houses, (like animal pens), and there keep them on the First-days; and then take their horses from them, and keep them for pretended breach of their Sabbath. Though they would ride in their coaches, and upon their fat horses to the steeple-houses themselves, and yet punish others. And many Friends were turned out of their homes, lands, and customary tenements, because they could not swear; and as they went to meetings, they have been stoned through the streets, and cruelly abused otherwise. And many were fined with great fines, and lay long in prison for not putting off their hats; but Friends could never pay them, though they kept them in prison, until they had satisfied their own wills upon them; and at last turned them out, after they had kept them a year, or more, in prisons.
Many Friends were exceedingly spoiled in their estates and goods in the petty courts for tithes, till we got a prohibition and demur out of the King's bench, that then threw the trial of such things out of their petty courts, that they might sue for them in the courts at London. My desire is, that the Lord may open their understandings, (if it be his will), to throw them out of those courts also.
I gave forth many books against tithes, and how the priesthood had been changed the priesthood that took them; and books that showed how Christ sent forth his twelve (and after, seventy) disciples, and said unto them, 'Freely they had received, and freely they were to give.' And so all that are transgressors, and do not obey the doctrine and command of Christ therein, we cannot receive them.
And many suffered for not swearing, both before and since the king came in; because they could not swear, in obedience to the command of Christ and the apostles, who forbade all swearing. Tenths were offered up in the time of the law; but all must be offered up in the time of the gospel for Christ's sake. For there were no tithes nor swearing before the fall; and so there are none again to be in the restoration by Christ. And though swearing was in the time of the law; yet our yes is to be yes, and our no to be no in the time of the gospel.
I was moved to give forth several books against swearing, and that our yes and no might be taken instead of an oath; and if we broke that, we would suffer the same punishment that they did who broke their oaths. And in Jamaica the governor granted this provision, and so did the Jamaican assembly; and it is also granted in some other places. Several of the parliament members in England have acknowledged the reasonableness of this provision. For the true oath of God was but to tie people to swear by the Lord, and to say and to do truth, since man and woman fell, in the time of the law, and not before the fall. And this was the oath that Christ came to fulfill and end; and he said, 'Swear not at all.' And I say, Christ fulfils and ends this oath, which men were to perform to the Lord, who performs God's oath, which he swore by himself, and fulfils the oath; and he sets up yes, yes, and no, no, instead of oathes. Concerning which, I and my Friends have written at length in our books regarding this subject. And the magistrates, after some time, when they saw our faithfulness in yes and no, they that were moderate, (both before and since the king came in), would put Friends into offices without an oath. But those who were cruel and envious, would fine Friends to get money of them; though Friends could not pay them any.
And thus the Lord's power has carried us through all, and over all, to his everlasting glory and praise! For God's power, which was before the devil's was, has been our hedge, our wall, and our keeper, and the preserver of his plants and vineyard, who have not had the magistrate's sword and staff to help them, nor ever trusted in the arm of flesh. And have gone, without Judas's bag or the magistrates' sword and staff, to preach the word of life, which was in the beginning, before they were; which word reconciles to God. And thousands have received the word of reconciliation, and are born again of the immortal seed by the word of God, and are feeding upon the milk of the word, which lives, and abides, and endures forever. And many have suffered to death for their testimony, both in England and beyond the seas, both before and since the king came in; which you may see, as follows:
This was given to the king and both houses of parliament, being 'A brief, and plain, and true relation of the late and sad sufferings of the people of God in scorn called Quakers, for worshipping, and exercising a good conscience towards God and man.' By reason whereof eighty-nine have suffered till death, (thirty-two of whom died before the king came into England, and fifty-seven since, by hard imprisonment and cruel usage), forty-three have died in the city of London and Southwark, since the act was made against meetings, etc. (about 1661.) They have thus suffered; of which a more particular account was given (with their names who did suffer) to the king and parliament, about 1663.
And though many laws were designed against us, yet never could any of them justly touch us, neither did they truly concern us, though they executed them unjustly upon us; and they knew we were not the people justly chargeable; and some have been made to confess it. And all those laws, that were already made, and the oath which they imprisoned us for, (because in obedience to the command of Christ Jesus, we could not swear at all), were never originally intended against us. And yet we suffered by the several powers and their laws, (though they did not concern us), both spoiling of goods and imprisonments, even to death itself. And the governor of Dover Castle, when the king asked him, 'if he had dispersed all the sectaries' meetings he said, 'he had; but the Quakers, the devil himself could not. For if he imprisoned them, and broke them up, they would meet again; and if he should beat them, and knock them down, or kill some of them, all was one: they would meet, and not resist again.' And thus the Lord's power did support them, and keep them over their persecutors; and made them to justify our patience and lamb-like nature. This was about 1671.
And since the king came in, three acts have been made against us by the king and parliament, (besides the proclamations), by which many have suffered imprisonment, and banishment, and many to death. And yet for all these acts and proclamations, and banishment, and persecutions, and sufferings, faithful Friends are as fresh as ever in the Lord's power, and valiant for his name and truth. And some weak ones there were, when the king came in, that did swear, and take the oaths; but after, when they had so done, they were so very troubled for disobeying the command of Christ, and the apostle, that they went to the magistrates, and condemned themselves, and offered themselves to go to prison. And thus the Lord, in his everlasting power, has been the support and stay of his people.
And when the glorious gospel and truth was spread over the nation, and they had received the word of life, then first the Quarterly, and some Monthly Meetings, were settled throughout the nation; and then after, as truth more and more spread, the monthly Men's Meetings, in 1667 and 1668.
And then also some Women's Meetings were set up; and afterwards the Women's Meetings throughout the nation and other nations were exhorted unto, and set up and established throughout the nations. For I was sent for to many sick people; and at one time I was sent for to White-Chapel, about the third hour in the morning, to a woman that was dying, and her child; and the people were weeping about her. And after a while I was moved, (in the name and power of Christ Jesus), to speak to the woman; and she and her child were raised up. And she got up, to the astonishment of the people, when they came in, in the morning; and her child also was healed. And when I came to G. Roberts's house, about eight in the morning, Sarah Blackberry came in to complain to me of the poor, and how many poor Friends were in want; and the Lord had showed me, what I should do, in his eternal power and wisdom. So, I spoke to her, to told about sixty women to meet me about the first hour in the afternoon, at the sign of the Helmet, at a Friend's house. And they did so accordingly, such as were sensible women of the Lord's truth, and fearing God. And what the Lord had opened unto me, I declared unto them, concerning their having a meeting once a week, every Second-day, that they might see and inquire into the necessity of all poor Friends, who were sick and weak, and were in want, or widows and fatherless in the city and suburbs. And so, they blest the Lord for the wisdom of God that had settled such a meeting in his power among them. For they saw, that all that were heirs of the power of God, were to take their possession of the power of God, the gospel and its order, which was, before the devil was. And this brought them into the practice of the pure religion, and to visit the sick, and for the relief of the fatherless and the widows, and to see, that nothing was lacking among them; and that they, in visiting the sick in the Lord's power and word, through it they would have the wisdom of the Lord, and of his creation, and how to administer his creatures, and by the same power to heal and strengthen with the outward things, and without them. Which they have felt prosperous to this day; and great things have been done in their meetings by the Lord's power, and very honorable it has been in the eyes of all the faithful, yes, and commendable in the world also.
And afterwards the same Women's Meetings were settled up and down the nation, and beyond the seas, in the power of the Lord, which was before the devil was; into which power of the Lord neither sect nor apostasy can come, but peace and unity. And the power of the Lord, the gospel, is the authority of all the Men's and Woman's Meetings, and all the heirs of the power, the gospel, both men and women are to take their possessions of the inheritance of the power of God, which is over the devil. So, in it nothing can get between them and the Lord God.
And at the settling of the Men's Meetings in the gospel, the power of God, I let them see, how they had a men's meeting in the first conversion among the primitive Christians, of such as were faithful men, and full of the Holy Ghost; and these were to see, in the Lord's power and wisdom, that nothing was lacking.
For since the Christians had denied the Jews' temple, storehouse, and priests, where the widows, strangers, and fatherless were relieved; they had set up a men's meeting in the power of God, and in the Holy Ghost, (and they had Deaconesses also), to see that widows, fatherless, and strangers were relieved, and that nothing was wanting among them. Now, though this practice has been lost since the apostles' days, since men have gone from the power of God, and the holy ghost, that the apostles were in, (and therefore are the streets and country so full of widows, strangers, and beggars, and so full of wants, who want the sense of the good spirit and power to open their hearts, that the apostles and primitive Christians were in.) But the everlasting gospel being preached again by the same holy ghost that the apostles were in; and received from heaven as they received it; and many thousands having received this gospel now again, men's meetings are set up, (as were in the days of the apostles), in the power of God, and in the holy ghost. And women's meetings as mothers, and that they may be teachers of good things, and so to see, that nothing be lacking among them; and so to do good unto all, but especially to the household of faith.
And now, the power of God is the authority of both our men's and women's meetings, and all our other meetings; which power of God was before the apostasy was from the apostles, and before the fall and the devil were, and is over all; and all are to take their possessions of it, and in it to do God's service and business. So these meetings are for the converted and elect, 'before the world began,' and such as are heirs of the power, and do possess it; and what they do and act in the spirit and power of God, they do it in that which shall never have an end, to the glory of God forever. Amen!