This biography is included to provide a record of the life of William Penn,
America's most famous Quaker,
and somewhat of a curiosity to many Americans, particularly Pennsylvanians.
Penn was a statesman and eminent Christian minister, who uniquely conquered a wilderness without a gun, who established peace with the indigenous peoples through kindness and love, and who founded a government whose principles formed the foundation of the US Constitution and government. He was a champion of the Indian, the negro slaves, women's rights, education for children, penal reform, individual rights, freedom of religion, and Christian virtue. Penn's choice was to spend his time in Pennsylvania, but he was mainly forced to govern Pennsylvania from a distance while he relieved injustices to Quakers in England. He had a deep love for both America and England, but greatly preferred his days in America. This is a unique accounting of Penn's secular accomplishments and trials, while showing the depth of his Christian ministry and commitment. Four biographies have been compiled, including several quotes from other earlier biographies. The four are: Rupert S. Holland' s Penn, Sydney G. Fisher's True Penn, Maria Webb's, Penns and Peningtons, and Passages from the Life and Writings of William Penn. I have modernized the language and added explanations of the Quaker faith, where appropriate.
Many of the historical accounts of Penn's life seem to focus on the misfortunes in his life, and frequently attribute blame; particularly those secular writers who seem to have no understanding of the fundamentals of the Quaker faith and no appreciation for the tireless efforts of Penn in his ministering. They seem to be fond of searching for feet of clay. The main areas of attack on his record are:
All of these criticisms are from people who appear to be grasping at anything to reduce the stature of Penn, probably out of envy and to assuage their own guilt of conscience, when measuring the breadth of Penn's accomplishments and integrity.
From The True Penn by Sidney George Fisher, speaking of Penn's qualifications as a secular authority of history:
Fisher's admirable curiosity did not fail him to give credit to Penn's visible secular accomplishments, which were mighty:
In 1688, under the urging and leadership of Penn, Pennsylvania passed an anti-slavery resolution in their colonial governing body, initiating slavery's long demise in America. Penn's ideals even influenced the United States Constitution in its separation of powers, the separation of Church and State, and the United States Bill of Rights. William Penn's Frame of Government for Pennsylvania implemented a democratic system with full freedom of religion, freedom from unjust imprisonment, fair trials, elected representatives of the people in power, and a separation of powers. Ahead of his time, Penn also submitted a written plan for a United States of Europe.
Penn's views in relation to the punishment and prevention of crime, were in accordance with the benevolent dictates of Christianity. The reformation of criminals, no less than the protection of society, should be the object of punitive justice; but, under the barbarous code then existing throughout Europe, vengeance seemed to be the main object in view, and public executions were fearfully numerous. "They weakly err," observes William Penn, "who think there is no other use of government than correction, which is the coarsest part of it." To provide the means of a good education for every child, and to see that all are taught some good trade or profession, would do more for the promotion of peace and happiness than all the machinery of courts and prisons. The principles that actuated the Friends who emigrated to Pennsylvania and the other American provinces, are set forth in a contemporary publication, called the Planter's Speech made by Penn, as follows:
For the rest of Penn's life we find him very actively engaged in a organizer and minister of the Quakers, a defender of them from persecution, a politician, a courtier, a founder of a colony, and suffering great losses of fortune - all while faithfully serving his Master and King, the Lord Jesus Christ to the best of his body, mind, soul, and heart - and to great accomplishments. Penn was a giant of a man and a magnificent servant of God.
The fewer decisions, the simpler one's life, the easier it is to remain faithful to your God's requirements. Penn chose perhaps the most difficult course possible for a Christian man: an obedient Christian as a ruler of government. With courage that I cannot imagine, Penn plowed through decisions, negotiations, administration, and government of a region the size of England - with faith in his God and actions that remained true to Christian principles. For several years between visits to Pennsylvania, Penn served as a Quaker lobbyist to King James, cautioning him and urging him in his government, particularly in defending the oppressed and to government policy related to religion. From a wilderness, he carved a colony which quickly surpassed their older colonial neighbors, while creating and maintaining a peace with the Indian that was never equaled. He walked the high wire of secular power with Christian humility; few could even approach his secular accomplishments, and scarce would any be able match his maintenance of Christian virtue at the same time. He had the accomplishments of a Caesar, but with the kindness and meekness of the greatest servant, his Lord Jesus Christ. Truly, he was of a Christian nobility that we may never again see in history.
For nearly half a century the king had been struggling hard to build up the power and privileges of the crown against Parliament and the people. James I had been very diligent in this, and tyranny was gaining in spite of the frantic and spasmodic struggles of the people against it. Tyranny was growing because England was growing and her power was growing. As the island became more and more civilized and began to take a place among the nations, organization became more and more necessary. Regular methodical government must succeed the easy, noble, and manly freedom which was instinctive with the descendants of the Vikings, Angles, and Saxons. The followers of the king and all who admired absolute monarchy, or loved place and power, took advantage of this necessity to develop royalty and a church established by law, and for a long time they were very successful.
Other things, however, were growing besides the royal power and the Church of England. The great movement of the Reformation, starting in the invention of printing and the revival of learning, was still stimulating independent thought, arousing and encouraging more and more the Puritan sects, and leading them to see their interest in developing the ancient Anglo-Saxon liberties, as the Royalists saw their interest in developing the kingly power. Strange creatures were those Puritans and other sects who had only recently broken through the restraints of the Middle Ages and begun to think for themselves. From the system of the Middle Ages, which ignored the Bible altogether, they had rushed to the opposite extreme of accepting it so literally that they gave their children the strange un-English names they found in the Old Testament. From the Church of Rome, which governed as an absolute monarchy and governed too much, the Presbyterians had reacted to a system of representative or republican church government made up of elective assemblies and synods; while others, the Independents and Congregationalists, had reacted to the principle that there should be no general church government at all, and each congregation should be a law unto itself in doctrine and discipline. From the excesses of image worship and ritual they had gone to abolishing all ritual, vestments, and images, adopting extemporaneous prayer instead of prayers read from a book, and preaching to a congregation that sat within four bare walls. They were austere in their manners; they disciplined themselves into a hatred of all amusements and pleasures. They saw the terrible side of religion; they convinced themselves of original sin, with which every man was born, and for which the vast majority of mankind would be burnt forever in hell by a wrathful God who, to gratify his rage and pleasure, had foreordained them to their fate, in spite of the good deeds and works they might do on earth.
They encouraged all feelings that were gloomy and somber, which were, they thought, alone compatible with religion. They relied on inward experiences and feelings of conversion to supply the place of the dogmas and forms they had rejected. They trained their faces to conform to their feelings, assumed sour, malignant expressions, whined, groaned, and drawled in their speech.
They were accompanied by smaller sects, with minds still more distorted by the new-found liberty of the age. A famous example was the Fifth-Monarchy men, who believed that Christ was about to come to establish an earthly kingdom for a thousand years. Desperate, dangerous fellows they were; for when the rage of their belief was on them and they thought the kingdom about to come, they would fight like devils, attacking the militia and soldiery with the utmost fury and sparing no lives.
Pepys describes how thirty-one of them, shouting, "The King Jesus and the heads upon the gates;" this put all London in terror. They routed the trainbands [companies of militia], put the king's lifeguard to the run, broke through the city gates, killed twenty men, and led every one to believe that they numbered five hundred, while every householder armed himself and forty thousand stood ready to oppose these fierce fanatics. ( Pepys's Diary, ed. 1893, vol. i, pp. 319-322.)
In striking contrast to these strange sects were the Royalists, who stood by the king and the Church of England, with its familiar Roman ceremonies and rituals and its adoption of a few of the ideas of the Reformation. Pleasure-loving and celebrant, devoted to sports and amusements, dressing fantastically, as it would now seem, in bright colors, many ribbons, with long hair and pointed beards, and all the more devoted to pleasures, theaters, oaths, ribaldry, and promiscuity; all practices banned by Puritanism. A long and terrible conflict was inevitable between these elements. How to combine the ancient freedom with the necessities of highly-organized government and have both liberty and government at the same time was the problem by whose solution England was to be torn and distracted for the rest of the century.* During that time, which in effect covers the life of William Penn, "freedom," as Tennyson has expressed it, "broadened slowly down from precedent to precedent." Slowly hardly describes this movement. It was very slow; often stagnation and sometimes retrogression; and Penn's relation to this movement, which is still a movement, is the most important part of his life's history. For he implement ideas and institutions from which we benefit today.
Charles I, who succeeded James I in 1625, carried the royal power to still greater heights. He levied taxes and imposts as he pleased without authority of law, and governed for many years without any Parliament at all. In fact, he completely eclipsed, and for the time being, destroyed the ancient liberties and brought royalty to its climax and acme of power.
In the same way, reacting against the whole spirit of the Reformation, he built up the Established Church. He was thought by many to be a disguised Catholic, having married one; apparently there are records of his agreement with the King of France regarding his troops to be used to quell any rebellion upon his reestablishment of England as subject to the Pope. His actions were more Catholic than Protestant. He appointed Laud to be Archbishop of Canterbury, and Laud became the terror and detestation of Puritans, filling the churches with images, elaborate ceremonies, and inflicting degrading punishment on the clergy who inclined to Puritan ways. They were imprisoned, whipped, had their ears cut off, their noses slit, and their cheeks branded with hot irons. A Puritan named Pryne was stood in the pillory, lost both his ears, and was imprisoned for life, all because his writing condemned the balls, theaters, and other amusements of the court.
The reaction by Charles I against the Reformation brought on a counter-reaction from the Reformation itself; for while despotism grew among the Royalists at court, wild republicanism spread among the people. Charles I tried to force the Church of England's ritual and ceremonies upon the Presbyterian Scotch; and when they rose in rebellion and mobbed the bishops, he called a Parliament together to grant him an army with which to suppress them. There had been no Parliament for eleven years; and this new one was filled with men of the Cromwell and Hampden order. They impeached and executed Laud and Stafford. They abolished the ecclesiastical courts which had been punishing the Puritans. They violently seized all the rights they had so long declared they possessed. They completely reversed the condition of affairs, and instead of the king ruling without a Parliament, Parliament ruled without the king. The king was driven from London, established himself at York, and declared war against his Parliament.
In this way began the great civil war in 1642, and when Penn was born, in October, 1644, four famous battles had been fought, - Edge Hill, Newbury, Nantwich, and Marston Moor. The Puritan cannon had battered down many an ancient castle of the nobility. The king's cause was lost, and the successful Puritan and parliamentary soldiers, with their extraordinary biblical names C Praise God Barebones and Sergeant Hew Agag in Pieces before the Lord — were roaming through the country, smashing the images in the churches, tearing out the pipes in the organs, breaking the stained-glass windows, and stabling their horses in cathedrals.
But although civil war rages in a country, the ordinary affairs of life go on. The children play hide-and-seek and lovers kiss their sweethearts as in the piping times of peace. We must not let the general statements and perspective of history deceive us, and we are assured that there was still some quiet life left in England when we read of that country gentleman who, on the morning of the battle of Edge Hill, was unconcernedly strolling with his dogs between the two armies. What concern had the war with him whose life as lord of his lands was self-contained and complete?
William Penn was born in London, on the 14th of the eighth month, (now the tenth,) A. D. 1664. Of his very early years but little is known. Being the heir to a considerable estate, and a youth of promising abilities, his father appears to have spared no expense to confer upon him the best education which the country could afford. He received the rudiments of learning at Chigwell school, which was near Wanstead, in Essex, then the country residence of his father. Although he left this seminary at the age of twelve years, yet he appears while there to have received some serious impressions in regard to the concerns of religion. The Lord, who designed to make him an instrument of good to many souls, visited his mind by his holy Spirit, bringing him under a weighty consideration respecting his eternal well being; and though he then knew not what it was which thus solidly impressed him, yet it had a good effect on his mind.
From the age of twelve to fifteen years, he resided in London, and had the advantage of a private tutor to aid him in the prosecution of his studies.
In giving an account some years after, of his religious exercises and convincement, he remarks, " Yes, it is Christ the true and only Seed of God, who visited my soul, even in my young years, spread my sins in order before me, reproved me and brought godly sorrow upon me, making me often to weep in solitary places, and say within my soul, O that I knew the Lord as I ought to know him! O that I served him as I ought to serve him! Yes, often was there a great concern upon my spirit about my eternal state, mournfully desiring that the Lord would give my soul rest in the great day of trouble."
During this period, his religious thoughtfulness was often renewed, and though the buoyancy of youthful spirits might at times dissipate it, yet there was a work begun, which the enemy of souls could not wholly lay waste, and which, as he advanced toward manhood, began to produce those blessed fruits of the Spirit, by which his after life was conspicuously marked.
To read more on the Penn's mother, grandfather, and father, and the Royal Navy, (the occupation of his grandfather and father), a separate page is provided.
WILLIAM PENN GOES TO COLLEGE
THE middle of the seventeenth century was a very exciting time in England. The Cavaliers of King Charles the First were fighting the Roundheads of Oliver Cromwell, and the whole country was divided into King's men and Parliament's men. On the side of Cromwell and the Parliament was Admiral William Penn, who had in 1646 been given command of a squadron of fighting ships with the title of Vice Admiral of Ireland, and who had proved to be an expert navigator and sea-fighter. He had married Margaret Jasper, the daughter of an English merchant who lived in Rotterdam, and when he went to sea, he left his wife and children in the pretty little English village of Wanstead, in the county of Essex. The wife of Admiral Penn, lived quietly in her country home; and by the time William was five years old, the Cavaliers had lost the battle of Naseby, had surrendered Bridgewater and Bristol, and King Charles the First had been beheaded. A new England, a Puritan England, had taken the place of the old England, but the boy was too young to understand the difference. He knew that his father was now fighting the Dutch, but he was chiefly interested in the games he played with his schoolmates at Wanstead and with the boys from the neighboring village of Chigwell.
Now Admiral Penn had fought on the side of the Roundheads because the English navy had sided with the Parliament, while the English army had largely sided with the king, and not from any real love of Oliver Cromwell and the Puritans. He was indeed a Royalist at heart, and had very little patience with the new religious ideas that were becoming so popular in England.
The Admiral was too much concerned at the time with his own difficulties to give much heed to his son. Admiral Penn had secretly sent word to the exiled son of Charles I that he would enter his service against Oliver Cromwell. Cromwell heard of it, and when the Admiral returned to England, Cromwell had him clapped into the Tower of London to keep him out of mischief. Mrs. Penn and her children went up to London and lodged in a little court near the Tower, where they might at least be near the Admiral. Presently the Admiral, stripped of his commission, was released, and left London for a country place in Ireland that Cromwell had given him for his earlier services.
The following is an account of the convincement of William Penn, delivered by Penn to Thomas Harvey:
The Penn's stayed in Ireland until the Royalists got the better of the Roundheads, and Charles II was placed on the English throne. Then Admiral Penn hurried to welcome the new king, was made a knight for his loyalty, and began to bask in the full sunshine of royal favor. He was now a great figure at court, a man of wealth, and a close friend and adviser to the king's brother, James, Duke of York, and was Lord High Admiral of England.
When a little over fifteen years of age, William Penn entered as "a gentleman commoner" at Oxford, where he remained three years, distinguishing himself as a hard and successful student. We learn from himself that he was preserved uncorrupted in the midst of the dissipations and wickedness which abounded in the University. He took great delight in manly sports, and in the society of those young men who were distinguished for talents or worth. Among those with whom he was intimate were Robert Spencer, afterwards the well-known Earl of Sunderland, and the venerable John Locke, [ a philosopher of later renown]. After the Restoration, the court set to work to remodel the University, by displacing those who held Puritanical opinions, or who had found favor during the Commonwealth, and installing others friendly to the re-established church and the lax moral principles then prevailing. Dr. Owen, conspicuous as a scholar and a strict religionist, was ejected to make room for a royalist partisan; and the students became divided into parties, applauding or denouncing the changes made.
There is reason to believe, from observations made by William Penn himself, that throughout his youth he was repeatedly visited by the Dayspring [the Light within all men, Christ] from on high, bringing him into serious thoughtfulness. While at college his associates appear to have been those of a religious cast of character like himself, who had probably been influenced by the teaching and advice of Dr. Owen. It so happened that while much controversy was going on among the scholars relative to religious opinions and practices, Thomas Loe, who had belonged to the University, and had now joined the Society of Friends, came to Oxford, and held several meetings. To these meetings William Penn and his associates went, and a deep impression was made upon their minds by the powerful preaching of this devoted servant of Christ. They declined being present at what were now the regular "services " of the college, and held private meetings for worship and religious exhortation and prayer; and for this they were fined. When an order came down from Charles the Second that the surplice* should be worn, according to the custom of ancient times, which was an unusual sight then at that University, they refused to wear them, and tore them off those they met. How far William Penn was implicated in this is not known; but his course gave great offence, and he was expelled the University with his associates. Thomas Harvey's account of his conversation with Penn, states that Penn told him he was expelled for writing a book, [probably defending the scriptural truths of the Quaker faith], and the priests and masters of the college were outraged.
When William Penn went to Oxford, the Society of Friends was growing exponentially. They were almost as much opposed to the Puritans as they were to the Royalists, who belonged to the Church of England. They were a religious sect, and more. They refused to pay the tithes or taxes for the support of the established church, they refused to take an oath in the law courts, they refused to bow to other men, they would wear their hats in court and in the presence of important persons. "Thee" and "thou" took the place of "you," although those pronouns had customarily only been used to servants. Nothing gave so much offense to a Royalist as to have a Quaker say "thee" or "thou" to him.* They preached in taverns and in highways, and walked the streets uttering prophecies of warning. They were called Quakers because they were often seized by the power of the Lord, so to make their flesh tremble, or as a antagonistic judge has named them, "quakers." It seemed to both the churchmen and the Puritans that these Quakers were breaking away from all forms of religion; they did not believe in baptism nor in the communion service; they would not listen to clergymen or hired preachers, and often they sat silent in their meetings, only speaking when one of them felt inspired by the Spirit of God to address them. Quietness was their word, and inward was their watch and waiting on God. They spoke against all sports and games, theaters, dancing, and card playing as time-wasters and distractions from seeking God, what they understood as the single necessary purpose of life. Many soldiers were Quakers, but the mature Quakers were eventually led by the Spirit within them to lay down their arms and not fight any more. They kept out of politics, and they testified against vain fashion with superfluous ribbons, lace, jewelry, etc. Their leader, George Fox, was a legend, very brave and very outspoken, often addressing thousands of listeners at one time; and he managed to rouse discussion wherever he went, traveling all over England, Wales, and Scotland, (with America, Ireland, Holland, and Germany added in his later years). Again and again Fox was put in jail; he was stoned and abused and mocked; but such was his power that more and more people came to follow him, admire him, reverence him and dearly love him. Later, Penn developed a very strong working relationship with George Fox; some have said that Penn was the closest Friend to Fox.
It was unusual that the Quakers should
have appealed so strongly to a youth like William
Penn, who was a gentleman commoner at the
most aristocratic college in England, a good-looking,
popular, sport-loving fellow, surrounded by
the sons of noblemen and courtiers. The Quaker faith, while crossing all classes, was primarily a middle-class phenomenon in England. In Ireland and America, there were more poor, often assisted by the more prosperous English Quakers. Penn was by nature serious-minded and
very interested in questions of religion; and he threw his
whole soul into whatever cause that appealed to him.
Whatever Penn was, he was never lukewarm, but
ardent and fiery and always tremendously earnest.
THE EARLY QUAKERS
To understand the history of William Penn we must have a clear idea of the Quaker faith in the time of Charles II. All through the Middle Ages the Christian Church, which was the Roman Catholic Church, had built up a network of beliefs that people took for granted, so that men never used their minds where religion was concerned, but were, to all intents and purposes, merely children, believing whatever the priests told them to believe. For centuries England, as well as all of Western Europe, had taken its creed directly from the Pope and his clergy, no more doubting the truth of what was told them than a child doubts the truth of the multiplication-table. But at length certain men of unusual independence of mind, men such as Martin Luther and John Calvin, became restless under the arbitrary teachings of the Pope and dared to question whether the priests were always right, no matter what they said. These men, and others like them, took part in what was known as the Reformation, an era in which men began to do a little thinking for themselves. The revival of the classical learning of Greece and Rome and the invention of the printing-press helped this new freedom of thought greatly. The first books to come from the printing-presses were copies of the Bible, which had formerly been beyond the reach of all but the priests, and as men soon translated the Scriptures from Latin into English and French and German and other languages, the people gradually became able to read the Old and New Testaments for themselves. The Bible was no longer a sealed book, from which the clergy gave the ordinary man and woman as much or as little as they thought good. It was free to all, and new teachers began to explain its meaning according to their own ideas.
It took a long time, however, for men to break away from the implicit obedience they had given for centuries to the Church of Rome. The most daring reformers only rid themselves of one or two dogmas at a time. Wyclife, the first great leader of the Reformation in England, only denied a part of the truth of the Mass, and kept almost all the rest of the Catholic belief. Huss, who followed him, only dared to doubt the truth of certain of the miracles, though he did declare that he believed in religious liberty. Martin Luther himself devoted most of his eloquence to attacking the sale of indulgences, which had been carried to great excess. Later he grew so bold as to oppose the authority of the Pope, but he still held to the larger part of the creed of the early Church.
In England Henry the Eighth had broken with the Pope, chiefly because the latter had refused to grant him a divorce from Catherine of Aragon and not because of any great difference in religious views. This break, however, gave the reformers an official position in England, and led to the establishment of the Church of England, which was called a Protestant Church to distinguish it from the Catholic. Henry's daughter, Mary, was a Catholic, and her reign saw a bitter struggle in England between Catholics and the new reform Protestants. This was a time of many Protestants being burned at the stake, accused of being the devil's supporters or witches; she was known as Bloody Mary. Mary's sister, Elizabeth, favored the Protestants, and with her succession the new Church actually came into its own, and the teachings of the Reformation began to bear fruit.
Very gradually, then, men came to think more and more freely for themselves. The Church of England discarded some of the beliefs of the Roman Catholic Church, but held to a great many of them, and once it became well fixed as the established Church of England it also became conservative, and insisted that people should obey its teachings, just as the Catholic Church had done. But the idea of the right of every one to think for himself had been set rolling and could not be stopped. Men and women (Puritans) who wished liberty to worship God in their own way went to America and founded communities with that principle as their basis, while others in England began to show their independence of the Established Church, and began to league themselves together as Presbyterians or Lutherans, under a number of different names, and many were often spoken of as Puritans. The Civil War between Charles I and Parliament was also largely a war between the men of the Church of England and the Puritans. Then, when the Puritans had won a place for themselves and a certain amount of power, they in their turn became conservative, and wanted to impose their own beliefs and religious observances upon the rest of England.
By this time, however, men had grown so used to freedom of thought in religious matters that every little group had its own peculiar creed. Any man of an original turn of mind could start a new sect and win converts. The Puritans themselves were not sufficiently liberal to suit men who now took pride in recognizing no authority in questions as to what they should think. Most of these small sects played very small parts in history. Some, such as the Independents, the Anabaptists, and the Pietists, flourished for a short time, and then became merged in other sects. The Quakers, however, made a much stronger appeal than many of the others, and drew into their ranks a great number of those who were dissatisfied with the superstitions of the Catholics, the Church of England, and the Puritans.
The reason the Quakers absorbed many of the other sects and grew so rapidly, and doubtless the chief reason why they appealed so strongly to the liberal mind of young William Penn, was that they set forth as their aim the definite plan of returning to primitive Christianity in its simplest form. To those men and women who thought that all religion had become hopelessly corrupt through the ignorance and fraud and cruelty of the priesthood that had so long controlled the church, the Quaker leaders tried to show that original Christianity was as pure and simple as ever. What they wanted was that people should return to the doctrines of the Christian Church as they were before the Bishop of Rome became Pope, and before the priests interpreted the Bible as best suited themselves. The Quaker teachers declared that the Episcopalians, the Presbyterians, Baptists, and Congregationalists Puritans were all still man-made religions; they were still immersed in superstition, ceremony, and ritual - outward observances of the old fleshly man. In the established religions, all they saw was vanity, with no change of the heart; the old man still reigned, and the old man of those sects was still immersed in the lusts of the flesh, the lusts of the eye, and the pride of life. The older sects were still making their appeal chiefly to the rich and influential; this new religion was to satisfy everyone; including the ordinary, the poor, the simple, those who cared little for wealth or high station. Rather than an external worship and praise of God, they pointed people to the teacher within each of them, the light that enlightens all men who come into the world; holding that the light within each man was Christ, and by being quiet to listen for his teachings, he would convict them of the sin within their hearts and then remove it. The end result of these teachings and cleansings was to become controlled by the Spirit of God; to become a Christian with a circumcised heart; and to witness the promises within the scriptures fulfilled. So their whole focus was an inward, invisible worship, led and prompted by the Spirit of God; rather than an outward, visible worship, led by men. This process of showing them their sin and them repenting from it, to receive changing grace, was what they said was the cross of Christ. In Penn's most famous work, No Cross No Crown, (available on this site), he showed how the other sects were the false church, the Whore of Babylon and the beast, controlled by the dragon, and which all nations followed. To quote Penn from No Cross No Crown:
So you can see, the Quaker's differences were not some minor interpretation of scripture's meaning. They basically said, unless your heart is purified to holiness through the cross of Christ, you had no salvation. They were as revolutionary to their time as Jesus was revolutionary to His time. They were persecuted just as Jesus was persecuted, just as Jesus said his true disciples would be. Over eight hundred Quakers died in prison. Many others were killed in their worship services by angry crowds of Puritan Congregationalists, Baptists, Episcopalians and Presbyterians, who hated them for telling them they had a false salvation and were part of a false church.
The fact that so many of the Quakers testified to the changing, teaching grace of God in their lives, while exhibiting moderation in their conversation and integrity in their conduct, was a powerful draw to others to join their society; particularly when they heard the preaching of the many ministers, without formal education, several under twenty years of age, but with the ability to explain all the promises within the scriptures, and how to secure them for themselves. These ministers were usually very mature in Christ, speaking from the Spirit of God; so their words far surpassed the educated-by-man preachers, only repeating phrases from the Bible. So the Quaker ministers' words reached the holy part in their listeners. The hearers of these words were deeply impressed, their own Light within testifying of the truth in the words and principles heard; depending on their love or hate of the Truth, they could then accept these words with convincement or reject them in denial, but it was truly their day of visitation.
The Quakers were for the greater part a remarkably sober, sensible, middle-class, law-abiding sect. The Catholics, the Puritans, the Presbyterians, and others had never hesitated to hold their meetings in secret when the laws seemed too severe against them. The Quakers, however, never held secret meetings; they performed their duties openly, no matter how much the magistrates were opposed to them. They argued their cause freely and openly on all occasions, and they wrote a great many pamphlets setting forth their belief and also telling to what persecutions they had been subjected. Five hundred Quaker authors published over two thousand pamphlets and books in a short time. These tracts were widely distributed, and served to call attention to the reasonableness of their cause and to win sympathy for their struggles with the law. They also soon showed the English virtue of obstinacy in their cause; for no matter how many times they were imprisoned or arrested, they continued steadfastly on their course. At first people laughed at the Quakers' custom of holding their religious meetings in prison just as they might have held them in their meetinghouses, but before long the laughter changed to respect, and finally became sincere admiration.
William Penn, young as he was, saw that the Quakers stood at the opposite pole from what he had come to consider a superstitious priesthood. He had a natural interest in religion, a natural earnestness of mind that led him to consider the Quaker's statements, and sufficient strength of judgment to be able to find the truth in that was hidden from many others.
WILLIAM PENN TRAVELS
WHEN his son William came home from Oxford, Admiral Penn was a prominent figure in London. He held numerous offices, for he was a Naval Commissioner, a Member of Parliament, Governor of Kinsale, Admiral of Ireland, a Member of the Council of Munster, and a favorite of King Charles and the Duke of York. He was in high hopes that he would soon be made a peer. His wife, Lady Penn, and his daughter Margaret, or Peg, as she was usually called, were fond of society and fashion. It was somewhat natural, therefore, that Admiral Penn should not altogether understand or appreciate the new religious views of his son William. He thought the youth exceedingly willful, but could not believe that his interest in the new movement was anything more than a passing whim. Therefore, in order to interest William in other things, he introduced him to his own friends and showed him something of the pleasant side of life at King Charles's court. He took William to suppers at the Bear Inn, and to plays at Drury Lane Theater. There was a satire on the Puritans, called "The Jovial Crew," then being given at a theater known as "The Cockpit," and the Admiral took William there in order to show him how absurd Puritans, and all the newer religious sects, actually were. But no matter how heartily the Admiral laughed and encouraged his son to laugh, he could not get William to throw himself into the pleasures of London life as readily as he thought a normal young fellow ought to.
The father was really very fond of his son, and spent considerable time in casting about as to what was best for his boy. At length it occurred to him that a visit to the celebrant city of Paris would entertain William, and drive out of his head some of his strange Oxford notions. Some of his college friends were going to France to study, and the Admiral arranged that William should go abroad with them. Some of them were of high rank, and they would easily have entrance to the best French society.
The young men were made welcome in Paris. Penn was presented to King Louis XIV, and he was charmed by the brilliance of the French court. He made the acquaintance of entertaining people, and he had at least one adventure. The story* is told that as he was returning late one night from a ball, he was stopped by a rogue who angrily called out to him to draw his sword and defend himself. The rascal flashed his own rapier before Penn's eyes, and declared that Penn had insulted him, - that he had bowed and taken off his hat politely to the young Englishman, but that the latter had paid no attention to him. Penn answered courteously that he had not seen the stranger, and so could not have insulted him by failing to bow to him. The stranger, however, only grew more excited, and insisted that Penn must fight him or he would run him through. Penn saw that argument was useless, and being by that time angry himself, drew his own sword and stood on defense. The street was dark, but a small crowd had gathered, attracted by the loud words, and several men announced that they would see fair play. The swords flashed in a few passes, and then Penn showed himself the more skillful swordsman. With a twist of his rapier he sent his opponent's sword flying into the air. The crowd expected him to attack his opponent again, but instead Penn stooped, and, picking up the other man's sword, handed it back to him with a bow, saying that he hoped the Frenchman was satisfied. News of the little encounter quickly spread among the young Englishman's friends, and on the strength of it, he became quite a hero.
Meantime the Admiral in London was much pleased with the reports he had of William's success in the social world of Paris. He wanted him to have a more thorough education, however, than Oxford afforded, and so made arrangements that he should go to Professor Moses Amyrault, at Saumur, to live in his home and study religion under him. Moses Amyrault was a learned Calvinistic minister and professor of divinity, who was then held in high estimation. Under this instructor he renewed his studies, read the ancient fathers as well as the modern works of theology, and acquired an accurate knowledge of the French language. After leaving Saumur, he proceeded towards Italy, but when he arrived at Turin a letter from his father reached him, desiring his return home. The Admiral having received orders to take command of the fleet under the Duke of York against the Dutch, wished to leave his family in the care of his son. William accordingly returned in 1664, having been absent about two years.
When he returned to London, he was very French and very gallant; indeed, he was so much a gentleman of fashion that Admiral Penn was really delighted. He had hopes, now, that William would, after all, follow in his own footsteps, and become a figure at the king's court.
Soon after this, however, his spiritual exercises and conflicts were renewed. The Lord who loved him, and designed him for usefulness in his church, followed him by the secret but powerful convictions of his Spirit. His worldly prospects were highly flattering to the natural ambition of a young and ardent mind. He possessed a manly form blooming with health, a lively and active disposition, a ready wit, and talents improved by great literary and scientific attainments, and many rich and powerful friends. These, added to his father's interest at court, and his intimacy with the duke of York, presumptive heir to the crown, as well as the solicitations of numerous friends, strongly inclined him to embrace the glory and pleasures of this world, which might be said to court his acceptance. But the glory and joy of the heavenly inheritance had taken a deep hold of his mind, and at seasons his earnest supplications were poured out to the Lord for preservation and right direction. And He who regards the prayer of the sincere seeker, was graciously pleased to hear his cry, and to favour him with a renewed visitation of his own holy power and Spirit, which enabled him to reject all the glittering allurements of worldly grandeur and honor, and with holy resolution determine to follow Christ Jesus in the regeneration, whatever sacrifices, sufferings or reproaches it might cost him.
With that end in view Sir William entered his son at Lincoln's Inn to study law. If he was to hold important offices in the government of his country, he must have some knowledge of law; and, besides, the legal training would bring him into contact with rising men of good families. So William began his studies, and the Admiral, well pleased, embarked with the Duke of York to fight the Dutch. William's letter to him, when he landed at Harwich shows the affectionate respect he had for his father:
The Admiral made his son bearer of a dispatch to King Charles. This was no doubt his first official visit to Whitehall, but that he must have been well known to the king appears by his letter to his father reporting the delivery of the dispatch. His letter closes with these words :
To the study of law William earnestly applied his acute, comprehensive intellect for the following year. But then came a change. In 1665 the plague broke out. Like everyone else who could relocate, [except George Whitehead, who stayed to minister to the sick], he left London. But in view of such sudden calls from life here to life hereafter, very solemn thoughts, and a religious sense of his responsibility to God for the right exercise of the talents that had been given him, took possession of his mind. His father marked the serious thoughtfulness which succeeded, and his manifest desire to withdraw from fashionable life. In remembrance of the past, he became alarmed, and soon resolved to send his son on a visit to his friend, the Duke of Ormond, then Lord Deputy in Ireland. After making acquaintance with the Ormond family, William was to proceed to the County of Cork and undertake the management of the admiral's Shangarry estate. The vice regal court in Dublin at that period was said to be the purest in Europe, and remarkable for its refinement and mental cultivation. We are told it was to a great extent free from the vulgar excesses that prevailed in the celebrant dissipated society of the court of the second Charles. Hence it suited young Penn's tastes and tendencies, to a degree that the latter never could. He therefore remained in Dublin for a considerable time; and even joined the Earl of Arran, the Duke's second son, in a military expedition to quell an outbreak in the County of Antrim. The insurgents, having fortified themselves in Carrickfergus castle, Arran accompanied by his youthful friend as a volunteer, undertook to dislodge them; and finally they restored peace to the district. His biographer says that young Penn behaved throughout with so much coolness and courage, as to extort general applause from experienced officers. The Duke of Ormond and Lord Arran were earnest in protesting that the ability he had displayed clearly pointed to the army as a profession for which his talents suited him in an eminent degree. However well pleased the Admiral was with the duke's praise of his son's ability and military prowess, he did not wish him to become a soldier [the rival of a Navy man]; and therefore the last as well as the first military exploit of William Penn was in connection with the Castle of Carrickfergus. The first portrait for which be sat was painted in Dublin after his return, and in it be was represented in the armor which he wore on that occasion.
But an important crisis was now at hand, which changed the whole current of his life. Another and a very different course of discipline was long assigned him by the Lord of all, preparing his heart and his hands to war in the cause of God and His righteousness, not with carnal weapons, but with the spiritual weapons of Divine truth, faith, and love. Penn, on arriving at Shangarry Castle, found and abundance work needed. A great deal of work had to be got through, to bring the affairs connected with the estate into due order; but, finally, all was settled with so much dispatch and businesslike ability that his father rejoiced.
Harvey's manuscript of Penn's conversation with him says that, on Penn's second coming to Cork, being the only one of the family there, and requiring some articles of clothing, he went to the shop of a woman-Friend in the city to procure them. He expected she would have known him, but she did not. He was too much altered from the days of his boyhood, when the Friend had seen him, to be now recognized by her. However, he told her who he was, and he spoke to her of Thomas Loe, and of the meeting at his father's house ten or eleven years before. The manuscript says, "She admired at his remembering, but he told her he should never forget it; also if he only knew where that person was, if 'it were a hundred miles off, he would go to hear him again.' She said he need not go so far, for the Friend had lately come there, and would be at meeting the next day." So he went to the meeting, and when Thomas Loe stood up to preach, he was exceedingly reached, and wept much. The preacher began with the text: "There is a faith which overcomes the world, and there is a faith which is overcome by the world." On this subject he enlarged, and this in so impressive a manner that William was deeply affected. He felt keenly that he had been allowing the world to overcome the drawings of his Heavenly Father's love, and wept much.
Reviewing his life some years afterwards, in an interview with some pious persons, he says :
William Hepworth Dixon depicts, with much graphic power, the events which succeeded:
Harvey's manuscript reports that after meeting, some Friends took notice of him, and he went to a Friend's house with Thomas Loe. In discourse Thomas Loe said he needed a horse for his own being not fit to travel; on which William Penn offered him his sumpter-horse, which he had brought from France. Thomas Loe was not willing to accept it, and William Penn thought it was because he was not enough of a Friend to have his horse accepted.
Being so ardent by nature, he determined that his faith should overcome the temptations that surrounded him. He would fight by the side of those who believed in the teachings of Christ within, the Light, Teacher, and Sanctifier of those who would listen for his teachings and command. Thomas Loe had convinced Penn of the truth, the inward way to salvation that could be witnessed, not just assumed from readings of man's teachings. He made up his mind to become a Quaker, in spite of all that his family or friends might say. The new faith had made its appeal to the deepest springs of his earnest and religious nature.
So William Penn, already considerable of a courtier, became a Quaker; and continued to be both things at the same time. His father had been both a Roundhead and a Royalist, though in his case it had always been from motives of self-interest. The son was now to combine two widely different types of man, but with him this resulted entirely from the two sides of his nature. Yet it was a very odd combination, that of a Quaker and a courtier, and one sure to bring him into many curious and controversial situations.
Again and again he attended the meeting of the Friends in Cork; and always with the deep conviction that in their assemblies worship, "in spirit and in truth," was acceptably offered up to "the Father of mercies and the, God of all comfort." The truthful, kind, unostentatious demeanor of these persecuted disciples of Christ with whom he now worshipped won his confidence; and he resolved, come what would, to cast in his lot with theirs. In their meetings he had experienced such heart-felt spiritual communion as he had never enjoyed elsewhere. He believed his spiritual eyes were now opened to see with some degree of clearness what was of God, and what was not.
But it was not long that a circumstance occurred which must have given him a foretaste of the trials which awaited him if, in defiance of paternal admonitions, he should identify himself with the persecuted Friends; for, on the 3rd of Ninth-month, 1667, their meeting in Cork, at which he was present, was broken up by a band of constables and soldiers; and all the men, eighteen in number, were made prisoners and taken before the mayor. Harvey's manuscript of Penn's conversation says:
Observing among the prisoners taken, the young heir of Shangarry, the magistrate said it was not necessary that he should go to prison if he would give bail for his good behaviour. This Penn declined to do, and, boldly questioning the legality of the whole proceeding, was imprisoned with the rest. From the jail he wrote to his friend Lord Ossory, eldest son of the Duke of Ormond, and then holding the presidency of Munster. The following is an extract from the letter :
Lord Ossory promptly interfered to have his young friend released. But the Earl was sorry to find him, on his liberation, in no way disposed to give up his connection with the persecuted Quakers. Ossory therefore lost no time in writing to inform the admiral respecting his son's imprisonment, release, and continued association with the Friends. The whole family was dismayed at the intelligence, and the young man was forthwith recalled by the disappointed father. He promptly obeyed the summons, presenting himself as soon as possible before his parents in London.
In giving an account some years after, of his religious exercises and convincement, he remarks, " Yes, it is Christ the true and only Seed of God, who visited my soul, even in my young years, spread my sins in order before me, reproved me and brought godly sorrow upon me, making me often to weep in solitary places, and say within my soul, O that I knew the Lord as I ought to know him! O that I served him as I ought to serve him! Yes, often was there a great concern upon my spirit about my eternal state, mournfully desiring that the Lord would give my soul rest in the great day of trouble. Now was all the glory of the world as a bubble; yes, nothing was dear to me that I might win Christ; for the love, pleasure and friendship of this world were a burden to my soul. In this seeking state, I was directed to the testimony of Jesus in my own conscience, as the true shining Light, given me to discern the thoughts and intents of my own heart. And no sooner was I turned unto it, but I found it to be that which from my childhood had visited me, though I distinctly knew it not; and when I received it in the love of it, it showed me all that ever I had done, and reproved all the unfruitful works of darkness, judging me as a man in the flesh, and laying judgment to the line, and righteousness to the plummet in me. By the brightness of his coming into my soul, the Lord Jesus discovered the man of sin there, upon his throne, and by the breath of his mouth, which is the two-edged sword of his Spirit, he destroyed his power and kingdom; and having made me a witness of the death of the cross, he has also made me a witness of his resurrection—so that in good measure my soul can now say, I am justified in the spirit; and although the state of condemnation unto death was glorious, yet justification unto life was, and is, more glorious."
THE YOUNG QUAKER COURTIER
Which order he obeyed, and landed at Bristol, where he stayed some meetings to strengthen himself; knowing his father would not be very pleasant upon him. Josiah Coal went with him to London, also to his father's house, to see how he was likely in be entertained. His father kept his temper while Josiah Cole was there, but "before going to bed, observing him use thee for you, he was very angry." The conversation of the father and son on this point, resulted in the former saying "he might thee or thou who he pleased, except the King, the Duke of York, and himself; these he should not thee or thou," But still William would not give his father to expect that he could in conscience make any such exceptions. On parting from him for the night, the admiral, with evidence of much displeasure, told his son to be ready to go out with him in the coach next morning when called on. William could sleep none that night, his mind being disturbed by a suspicion that his father had determined to take him to Court at once, to show how far courtly surroundings would aid in driving away his Quaker prepossessions.
When the morning came, they went in the coach together, without William knowing where they were going, till the coachman was ordered to drive into the Park. Thus he found his father's intent was to have private discourse with him. He commenced by asking him what he could think of himself, after being trained up in learning and courtly accomplishments, nothing being spared to fit him to take the position of an ambassador at foreign courts, or that of a minister at home, that he should now become a Quaker. William told him that it was in obedience to the manifestation of God's will in his conscience, but that "it was a cross to his own nature." He also reminded him of that former meeting in Cork, and told him that he believed he was himself at that time convinced of the truth of the doctrine of the Quakers; only that the grandeur of the world had been felt to be a too great sacrifice to give up. After more discourse they turned homewards. They stopped at a tavern on the way, where Sir William ordered a glass of wine. On entering a room on this pretext, he immediately locked the door. Father and son were now face to face, under the influence of stern displeasure on the one hand, and on the other, prayerful feeling to God for strength rightly to withstand or bear what was coming. William, remembering his early experience on returning from Oxford, expected something desperate. The thought arose that the admiral was going to cane him. But, instead of that, the father, looking earnestly at him, and laying his hands down on the table, solemnly told him he was going to kneel down to pray to Almighty God that his son might not be a Quaker, and that he might never again go to a Quaker meeting. William, opening the casement window, declared that before he would listen to his father putting up such a prayer to God, he would leap out of the window. At that time a nobleman was passing the tavern in his coach, and observing Sir William's at the door, he alighted. Being directed to the room in which father and son were together, his knock came in time to arrest the catastrophe. He had evidently heard of William's return, and of the admiral's high displeasure. After saluting the former, the manuscript says that "he turned to the father, and told him he might think himself happy in having a son who could despise the grandeur of the world, and refrain from the vices which so many were running into."
They paid a visit before they returned home to another nobleman, and the discourse with him also turned on the change in William. Here again the father was congratulated and the son's resolution commended. These congratulations were cheering to the young convert, whatever they might have been to the admiral. It would seem that, for a longer time than is generally supposed, William remained under his father's roof after his return from Ireland; and that in fact he had commenced to preach in Friends' meetings, and had become known as a Quaker preacher, before his final expulsion from home took place.
ABOUT the year 1668, being then in the twenty-fourth year of his age, William Penn, having passed through many deep exercises and probations, both inwardly and outwardly; having parted with all that the world holds dear for Christ's sake, and been made a partaker of the powers of the world to come, a gift in the ministry of the gospel of life and salvation was dispensed to him by the head of the Church [Christ himself]. Animated with an ardent concern for the everlasting welfare of his fellow-creatures, his heart warmed with divine love, and reaching forth in good will towards all without distinction of name or party, he became a zealous, indefatigable, and effectual laborer in the vineyard of his divine Master.
The following letter, written about this time to a young person of his acquaintance, will serve to show his solicitude for others, his Christian plainness, and the light by which he now sees:
Almost as soon as he had identified himself with the Society of Friends, he felt himself called to be a defender of their religious belief against public attacks. In this year Jonathan Clapham published a work called A Guide to True Religion, in which he set forth certain articles as the true Christian creed, declaring all who did not assent to them incapable of salvation, and inveighing with severity against the doctrines of the Friends. William Penn in reply wrote The Guide Mistaken, from which a few passages are taken.
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