Between this and the fair my wife came out of the north to Bristol with her son-in-law Thomas Lower and with two of her daughters. Her other son-in-law, John Rouse, William Penn and his wife, and Gerard Roberts came from London, (and many Friends from several parts of the nation to the fair), and glorious powerful meetings we had there, for the Lord's infinite power and life was over all. In light of the fresh openings I was moved to declare of three estates and three teachers:
After I had finished my service for the Lord in that city, I departed into Gloucestershire, where we had many large and precious meetings; and the Lord's everlasting power flowed over all. From Gloucestershire I passed into Wiltshire, where also we had many blessed meetings. At Slattenford in Wiltshire we had a very good meeting, though we met with much opposition from some, who had set themselves against women's meetings; which I was moved of the Lord to recommend to Friends, for the benefit of the church of Christ. ‘So that faithful women, called to the belief of the truth, made partakers of the same precious faith, and heirs of the same everlasting gospel of life and salvation as the men are, might in like manner come into the possession and practice of the gospel order. There they can be help mates to the men in the restoration, in the service of truth, and in the affairs of the church, as they are outwardly in civil or temporal things. So that all the family of God, women as well as men, might know, possess, perform, and discharge their offices and services in the house of God. In this way the poor might be the better taken care of; the younger sort instructed, informed, and taught in the way of God; the loose and disorderly reproved and admonished in the fear of the Lord; the clearness of persons proposing marriage, more closely and strictly enquired into in the wisdom of God; and all the members of the spiritual body the church might watch over and be helpful to each other in love.' After these opposers had run into much contention and wrangling, the power of the Lord struck down one of the chief of them, Nathan Coleman, so that his spirit sunk, and he came to be sensible of the evil he had done, in opposing God's heavenly power. He confessed his error before Friends and afterwards wrote a paper of condemnation, in which he declared, 'That he willfully opposed (although I often warned him to take heed), until the fire of the Lord did burn within him, and he saw the angel of the Lord with his sword drawn in his hand, ready to cut him off.'
Despite the opposition that was made at the meeting, a very good and serviceable meeting it was; for there was an occasion to answer their objections and quibbling, and to open the services of women in and for the church. At this meeting the women's meetings for that county were established in the blessed power of God.
After this I went to Marlborough, and had a meeting there, to which some of the magistrates came, and were civil and moderate. Then passing to Bartholomew Maylin's, I had a very precious meeting there. From there I went a little beyond Ore, where we had a very large and blessed meeting, as we had also soon after upon the border of Hampshire. Then turning into Oxfordshire, we visited Friends there; then went to Reading where we had a large meeting. From there passing into Buckinghamshire, we had many precious meetings in that county. After which we visited Friends until we came to Kingston upon Thames, where my wife and her daughter Rachel met me.
I did not stay at long Kingston, but I went to London where I found the Baptists and Socinians, with some old apostates, who had grown very rude, and had printed many books against us; so I had a great travail in the Lord's power, before I could leave that city. But blessed be the Lord, his power came over them, and all their lying, wicked, scandalous books were answered. I made a short journey into some parts of Essex and Middlesex, visiting Friends at their meetings and their children at the schools, and returned soon to London. After some service there among Friends, I went to Kingston, and from there to Stephen Smith's in Surrey, where there was a very large meeting, many hundreds of people attending it. I stayed in those parts until I had cleared myself of the service the Lord had given me to do there, and then returned by Kingston to London where I felt my spirit drawn. I had heard that many Friends had been taken before the magistrates, and many imprisoned, both in London and in other parts of the nation, for opening their shop windows upon holy days and fast days (as they are called), and for bearing testimony against all such observation of days. Friends could not observe these days, knowing that since the true Christians did not observe the Jews' holy days in the apostles' times, neither could we observe the Heathens' and Papists' holy days (so called), which have been set up among those called christians since the apostles' days. For we were redeemed out of days by Christ Jesus, and brought into the day which has sprung from on high, and are come into him, who is Lord of the Jewish Sabbath, and the substance of the Jews' signs.
After I had stayed some time in London, laboring for some relief and ease to Friends in this case, I went with my wife and her daughter Rachel to Hendon, in Middlesex, and from there to William Penn's at Rickmansworth, in Hertfordshire, where Thomas Lower, who married another of my wife's daughters, came the next day to accompany us in our journey northward. After we had visited Friends there, we passed to a Friend's house near Aylesbury; and from there to Bray Doily's at Adderbury, in Oxfordshire, where on first-day we had a large and precious meeting. Since Truth had well spread, and Friends in those parts had increased much in number, two or three new meetings were then set up in that area.
At night as I was sitting at supper, I felt I was taken to jail; yet I said nothing to any body of it then. But getting out next morning, we traveled into Worcestershire, and went to John Halford's at Armscot, in Tredington parish; where we had a very large and precious meeting in his barn, the Lord's powerful presence being eminently with and among us. After the meeting, when most of the Friends were gone, as I was sitting in the parlor conversing with some Friends, Henry Parker, a justice, came to the house, and with him Rowland Hains, a priest of Hunniton, in Warwickshire. This justice became aware of the meeting through a woman Friend, who was a nurse to a child of his; she asked leave of her mistress to go to the meeting to see me; the mistress spoke of it to her husband; and her husband and the priest plotted together to break up the meeting and apprehend me. However they had lingered long over dinner, because it was the day on which his child was sprinkled in baptism; so they did not come until the meeting was over, and Friends were mostly gone. But even though there was no meeting when they came, Henry Parker arrested me, (since I was the person they aimed at) and Thomas Lower for company with me; and though he had nothing with which to charge us, he sent us both to Worcester jail by a strange sort of mittimus; a copy of which here follows:
Being thus made prisoners, without any probable appearance of being released before the quarter sessions at soonest, we got some Friends to accompany my wife and her daughter into the north, and we were conveyed to Worcester jail. From where, by the time I thought my wife could have arrived home, I wrote her the following letter.
When we had been some time in the jail, we thought it suitable to lay our case before the lord Windsor, lord-lieutenant of Worcestershire, and before the deputy-lieutenants, and other magistrates; which we did by the following letter:
But we did not receive release from confinement by our application to lord Windsor, (so called.) And although Thomas Lower received several letters from his brother Dr. Lower, who was one of the king's physicians, concerning his liberty, and one from Henry Savil, (who was one of the king's bed-chamber, to his brother) calling on lord Windsor on his behalf; yet since it related only to his release, not mine, so great was his love and regard to me, that he would not seek his own liberty alone, but kept the letter by him unsent. So we were continued prisoners until the next general quarter sessions of the peace. At which time various Friends from several places, who were in town, did speak to the justices concerning us. They spoke fairly and said we should be discharged. For many of the justices seemed to dislike the severity of Parker's proceedings against us, and declared an averseness to ensnare us by the tender of the oaths. Some Friends also had spoken with lord Windsor, who likewise said they spoke fairly; so that it was the general opinion we should be discharged. We also heard also that Dr. Lower had procured a letter from colonel Sands at London to some of the justices in our favor. Some of the justices also spoke to some Friends to advise us, that they would have us speak little in the court, for fear that we should provoke any on the bench, so they would authorize we should be discharged.
When Parker had ended his speech, the justices began with Thomas Lower, whom they examined as to the cause of his coming into that country; of which he gave them a full and plain account. Sometimes I put in a word while they were examining him, and then they told me, ‘they were upon his examination, when it came to my turn, I should have free liberty to speak, for they would not hinder me; but I should have full time, and they would not ensnare us.' When they had done with him, they asked me an account of my travel, which I gave them, as is mentioned before, but more largely. And also where, justice Parker, to aggravate the case, had made a great uproar of ‘there being some from London, some from the north, some from Cornwall, and some from Bristol, at the house when I was taken.' I told him, 'This was in a manner all one family’. For there was none from London but myself; none from the north but my wife and her daughter; none from Cornwall but my son-in-law Thomas Lower; nor any from Bristol except one Friend, a merchant there. He met us, accidentally, and was able to assist my wife and her daughter in their journey homewards, when by our imprisonment they were deprived of our company and help.' When I had spoken, the chairman, whose name was Simpson, an old Presbyterian, said, ‘Your account is very innocent.' Then he and Parker whispered awhile together, and after that the chairman stood up and said: 'You, Mr. Fox, are a famous man, and all this may be true which you have said; but that we may be better satisfied, will you take the oaths of allegiance and supremacy?' I told them, 'They had said, "They would not ensnare us;" but this was a plain snare for they knew we could not take any oath.' However, they caused the oath to be read; and when they had finished, I told them I never took an oath in my life, but I had always been true to the government; that I was cast into prison at Derby, and kept a prisoner six months there, because I would not take up arms against king Charles at Worcester-fight; and for going to meetings, was carried up out of Leicestershire, and brought before Oliver Cromwell, as a plotter to bring in king Charles. And you know,' I said, ' in your own consciences that we, the people called Quakers, cannot take an oath, nor swear in any case, because Christ has forbidden it. But as to the matter or substance contained in the oaths, this I can and do say, that I do own and acknowledge the king of England to be lawful heir and successor to the realm of England, and do abhor all plots and plotters, and contrivances against him; and I have nothing in my heart, but love and good-will to him and all men, and desire his and their prosperity; the Lord knows it, before whom I stand an innocent man. And as to the oath of supremacy, I deny the pope, his power, and his religion, and abhor it with my heart.' While I was speaking, they cried, 'Give him the book.' I said, 'the book said, "Swear not at all." Then they cried, take him away, jailer;' and I still speaking on, they were urged jailer, crying; 'Take him away, we shall have a meeting here. Why do you not take him away? That fellow (meaning the jailer), loves to hear him preach.' Then the jailer drew me away; and as I was turning from them, I stretched out my arm, and said, 'The Lord forgive you, who cast me into prison for obeying the doctrine of Christ.' Thus they apparently broke their promise in the face of the country; for they promised I should have free liberty to speak, but now they would not give it me; and they promised they would not ensnare us, yet now they tendered me the oaths on purpose to ensnare me.
When he came in, he asked me, 'What I was in prison for? 'Do you not know that?' said I. 'Were you not upon the bench, when justice Simpson and Parker tendered the oath to me? And did you not have a hand in it?' Then he said, ‘It is lawful to swear; and Christ did not forbid swearing before a magistrate; but swearing by the sun and the like.' I told him to prove that by the scriptures, but he could not. Then he brought that saying of Paul's, 'All things are lawful unto me.' 1 Cor 6:12. 'And if,' said he, ‘all things were lawful unto him, then swearing was lawful unto him.’ ‘By this argument,' said I, ‘you may also affirm that drunkenness, adultery, and all manner of sin and wickedness is lawful also, as well as swearing.’ ‘Why,' said Dr. Crowder, ‘do you hold that adultery is unlawful?' ‘Yes,' said I, ‘that I do.' 'Why then,' he said, 'this contradicts the saying of St. Paul.' At which point I called to the prisoners and the jailer, to hear what doctrine Dr. Crowder had laid down for orthodox, 'that drunkenness, swearing, adultery, and such things were lawful!' Then he said, ‘He would give it under his hand;' and took a pen, but wrote something other than what he had spoken. Then turning to Thomas Lower, he asked him, ‘whether he would answer what he had written there?' Thomas undertook it. At the time when he had threatened Thomas Lower to sue him in the bishop's court for speaking so abusively, (as he called it), of him before the justices, and Thomas had told him to go ahead with it whenever he pleased, for he would answer him and bring his parishioners in evidence against him; Dr. Crowder had gone away in a great fret, grumbling to himself as he went. A few days after Thomas Lower sent him an answer to the paper he had written and left with him; which answer a Friend of Worcester carried to him, and he read it and said, 'He would reply to it;' but he never did, though he often sent him word he would do it.
Soon after the sessions, the term coming on, a habeas corpus was sent to Worcester for the sheriff to bring me up to the King’s Bench bar. At which tine the under-sheriff having made Thomas Lower his deputy to convey me to London, we set out the twenty-ninth of the eleventh month, 1673, and came to London the second of the twelfth month; the ways being very deep, and the waters high. Next day, notice was given that I was brought up, and the sheriff was ordered to bring me into court. I went accordingly and appeared in court before judge Wild; and both he and the lawyers were pretty fair, so that I had time to speak, to establish clearly my innocence, and show my wrongful imprisonment. After the return of the writ was entered, I was ordered to be brought into court again next day; the order of court being as follows:
Accordingly I went in the morning, and walked in the hall until the sheriff came to me, (for he trusted me to go wherever I would), and since it was early, we went into the court of king's bench, and sat among the lawyers for almost an hour, until the judges came in, at which time the sheriff took off my hat; and after a while I was called. The Lord's presence was with me, and his power I felt was over all. I stood and heard the king's attorney, whose name was Jones, who indeed spoke notably on my behalf, as did also another counselor after him; and the judges, who were three, were all very moderate, not casting any reflecting words at me. I stood still in the power and spirit of the Lord, seeing how the Lord was at work, and the earth was helping the woman. But when they had finished, I applied myself to the chief justice, asking, ‘That I might speak;' and he said I might. 'Then I related the cause of our journey, the manner of our being taken and committed, and the time of our imprisonment until the sessions; with a brief account of our trial at the sessions, and what I had offered to the justices then, as a declaration that I could make or sign, instead of the oaths of allegiance and supremacy.' When I had done, the chief justice said, ‘I was to be turned over to the King’s Bench, and the sheriff of Worcester to be discharged of me.' He said also, ‘That they would consider further of it; and if they found any error in the record, or in the justices' proceedings, I should be set at liberty.' So a bailiff was called to take me into custody, and he delivered me to the keeper of the King’s Bench, who let me go to a Friends house, where I lodged, and made an appointment to meet me at Edward Man's in Bishopsgate-street the next day. But following this, Justice Parker, or some other of my adversaries, made a move to the court, that I might be sent back to Worcester. So another day was appointed for another hearing, and they had four counsels that pleaded against me. George Stroude, a counselor, pleaded for me, and was pleading before I was brought into the court; but they pushed him down, and prevailed with the judges to give judgment, 'That I should be sent down to Worcester sessions.' Only they told me I might put in bail to appear at the sessions, and to be of good behavior in the mean time. I told the four judges, ‘I had never taken an oath and was never of ill behavior in my life, and that they might as well put the oath to me there, as send me to Worcester to be ensnared by the justices there in their putting the oath to me, and then premuniring me. I told them, if I broke my yes or no, I was content to accept the same penalties which those did who break their oaths.’ It was thought this alteration of the judges' minds in my case proceeded from some false information that my adversary justice Parker had given against me. For between the times of my former appearance and this one, justice Parker had spread abroad a very false and malicious story: 'That there were many substantial men with me out of several parts of the nation when he took me, and that we had a design or plot in hand; and that Thomas Lower stayed with me in prison long after he was set at liberty, to carry on our design.' This was spoken of so much in the parliament-house that if I had not been brought up to London when I was, I would have been stopped at Worcester, and Thomas would have been committed there with me. But although these lies were easily disproved and laid open to Parker's shame, still the judges would not alter their last sentence, but remanded me to Worcester jail. Only one favor was granted; that I might go down my own way, and at my own leisure, provided I would be there without fail by the assize, which was to begin the second of the second month following.
I stayed in and about London until the latter end of the first month, 1674, and then went down leisurely (for I was not able to abide hasty and hard traveling), and came into Worcester the last of the first month, 1674, the day before the judges came to town. The second day of the second month I was brought from the jail to an inn near the hall, so I would be in readiness if I should be called. But not being called that day, the jailer came at night and told me, 'I could go home,' meaning to the jail. Gerard Roberts of London was with me, and we went down together to the jail without any keeper. Next day, being brought up again, they set a little boy about eleven years old to be my keeper. I came to understand Justice Parker and the clerk of the peace had given an order that I should not be put onto the calendar, that I might not be brought before the judge. I got the judge's son to move in court 'that I might be called:' whereupon I was called and brought to the bar before Judge Turner, my old adversary, who had tendered me the oaths, and premunired me once before at Lancaster. After I stood in silence, he asked me, ‘What I desired? 'I answered, 'My liberty according to justice.' He said, ‘I lay the oath upon you;' and asked, 'If I would take it?' 'I asked that he would hear the manner of my being taken and committed;' and he being silent, I gave him an account as is before explained. I told him also, 'That since my imprisonment I had understood my mother, who was an ancient, tender woman, and had desired to see me before she died, hearing that I was stopped and imprisoned on my journey, (so that I was not likely to come to see her), was so struck, that she died soon after, which was a very hard thing to me.' When I had finished speaking, he again asked me, 'To take the oaths.' I told him, 'I could not take any oath, for conscience sake; and I believed he and all of them knew in their consciences that it was for conscience sake that I could not swear at all. I declared among them what I could say and what I could sign, in owning of the king's right to the government, and in denying the pope and his pretended power, and all plotters, plots, and conspiracies against the government.' Some thought the judge had a mind to set me at liberty, for he saw they had nothing justly against me; but Parker, who committed me, endeavored to incense him, telling him, ‘That I was a ringleader; that many of the nation followed me, and he did not know what it might come to;' with many more envious words, which some took notice of; who also observed, that the judge gave him no word in answer. However, the judge, willing to ease himself, referred me and my case to the sessions again, bidding the justices make an end of it there, and not trouble the assizes any more with me. So I was continued prisoner, chiefly (as it seemed), through the means of justice Parker, who in this case was as false as envious; for he had promised Richard Cannon of London, who had acquaintance with him, 'That he would endeavor to have me set at liberty;' yet he was the worst enemy I had in court, as some of the court observed and reported. Other justices were very loving, and promised, ‘that I should have the liberty of the town, and to lodge at a Friend’s house until the sessions;' which accordingly I had, and the people were very civil and respectful to me.
Between this time and the sessions I had some service for the Lord with several that came to visit me. At one time three nonconformist priests and two lawyers came to converse with me, and one of the priests undertook to prove, 'That the scriptures are the only rule of life.' After I had defeated his proof, I had a suitable opportunity to show them, 'The scriptures’ right and proper use, service, and excellence. I also to showed that: 1) the spirit of God which was given to every one to profit with; and 2) the grace of God which brings salvation, and which has appeared to all men, and teaches them who obey it to deny ungodliness and worldly lusts, and to live soberly, righteously, and godly in this present world; that these two make the most suitable, proper, and universal rule which God has given to all mankind to rule, direct, govern, and order their lives by.'
Another time a common prayer priest, and some other people came to discourse with me. He asked me,' if I was grown up to perfection? ' I told him, ‘what I was, I was by the grace of God.' He replied, 'it was a modest and civil answer.' Then he urged the words of John, 'if we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.' He asked, ‘what did I say to that' 'I said with the same apostle, "if we say that we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us;" who [Jesus] came to destroy sin, and to take away sin. So there is a time for people to see that they have sinned, and there is a time for them to see that they have sin; and there is a time for them to confess their sin, and to forsake it, and to know the blood of Christ to cleanse from all sin,' 1 John 1:7.Then the priest was asked, ‘whether Adam was not perfect before he fell? And whether all God's works were not perfect?’ The priest said, 'there might be perfection as Adam had, and a falling from it.' But I told him, 'there is a perfection in Christ above Adam, and beyond falling; and that it was the work of the ministers of Christ to present every man perfect in Christ; for the perfecting of whom they had their gifts from Christ. Col 1:28, Eph 4:11-13. Therefore whoever denied perfection, denied the work of the ministry, and the gifts which Christ gave for the perfecting of the saints. Eph 4:11-13. The priest said, ‘we must always be striving.' I answered, ‘it was a sad and comfortless sort of striving, to strive with a belief that we should never overcome.' I told him also, that ‘Paul, who cried out of the body of death, did also "thank God, who gave him the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. " 1 Cor 15:57. So there was a time of crying out for want of victory, and a time of praising God for the victory. And Paul said, “there is no condemnation to them that are in Christ Jesus." The priest said, 'Job was not perfect.' I told him, ‘God said Job was a perfect man, and that he did shun evil; Job 2:3 and the devil was forced to confess, that "God had set a hedge about him" Job 1:9-10, which was not an outward hedge, but the invisible, heavenly power.’ The priest said, 'Job said, “he charged his angels with folly, and the heavens are not clean in his sight.” I told him, ‘that was his mistake; it was not Job who said that, but Eliphaz, who contended against Job.' ‘Well, but,' said the priest, 'what say you to that scripture,' " the most just man that sins seven times a day?"* 'Why truly,' said I, ‘I say there is no such scripture;' and with that the priest's mouth was stopped. Many other services I had with several sorts of people between the assizes and the sessions.
The next quarter sessions began the twenty-ninth of the second month, and I was called before the justices. The chairman's name was Street, he was a judge in the Welsh circuit, and he misrepresented me and my case to the country, telling them 'that we had a meeting at Tredington from all parts of the nation, to the terrifying of the king's subjects, for which we had been committed to prison. And that for the trial of my faithfulness the oaths were put to me; and, having had time to consider it, he asked me if I would now take the oaths?' 'I desired liberty to speak for myself; and having obtained that, began first to clear myself from those falsehoods he had charged on me and Friends; declaring, that we had no such meeting from all parts of the nation as he had represented it; but that (except the Friend from whose house we came, and who came with us to guide us there, and one Friend of Bristol, who came accidentally, or rather providentially, to assist my wife homewards, after we were taken) those who were with me were in a sense part of my own family, being my wife, her daughter, and her son-in-law. And we did not meet in any way or manner that would occasion terror to any of the king's subjects; for we met peaceably and quietly without arms; and I did not believe there could be anyone produced that could truly say he was terrified with our meeting. Besides, I told them we were only on our journey home, the circumstances I now related as before. As to the oaths, I showed why I could not take them, (since Christ has forbidden all swearing), and what I could say or sign instead of them, as I had done before. Yet they caused the oaths to be read to me, and afterwards read an indictment, which they had drawn up in readiness, having a jury ready also. 'When the indictment was read, the judge asked me, ‘if I was guilty? I said, 'no, it was a great mass of lies; which I showed and proved to the judge in several particulars, asking him, if he did not know in his conscience they were lies?' He said, ‘it was their form.’ I said, ‘it was not a true form.' He asked me again, 'whether I was guilty?' I told him, 'no, I was not guilty of the matter, or of the form; for I was against the pope and popery, and did acknowledge and should set my hand to that.' Then the judge told the jury what they should say and do, and what they should write on the backside of the indictment; and as he said, they did. But before the jury gave their verdict, I told them, ‘it was for Christ's sake and in obedience to his and his apostle James command, that I could not swear; therefore,' I said, ‘take heed what you do, for before his judgment seat you shall all be brought.' The judge said, 'this is scolding the jury.' I said, 'if to confess Christ our Lord and Savior and to obey his command is called scolding by a judge of a court, it is to little purpose for me to say more among you; yet you shall see that I am a Christian, and shall show forth Christianity, and my innocence shall be manifest.' So the jailer led me out of the court; and the people were generally tender, as if they had been in a meeting. Soon after I was brought in again, and the jury found the bill against me, which I examined. Then I was asked to put in bail until the next sessions, and the jailer’s son offered to be bound for me. But I stopped him, and warned Friends not to meddle, for I told them, ‘there was a snare in that;’ yet I told the justices, I could promise to appear if the Lord gave health and strength, and I was at liberty. Some of the justices were loving, and would have stopped the rest from indicting me or putting the oath to me; but judge Street the chairman said, 'he must proceed according to law.' So I was sent to prison again: yet within two hours after, through the moderation of some of the justices, I had liberty given me until the next quarter sessions. These moderate justices, as it was said, asked Justice Parker to write to the king for my liberty, or for a ‘no prosecution,’ because they were satisfied I was not a dangerous person as I had been represented. This, it was said, he promised to do, but did it not.
After I had got a copy of the indictment, I went to London, visiting Friends as I went. When I came there, some that were earnest to get me out of the hands of those envious justices that sought to premunire me at Worcester; wanted to interfere again and bring me before the judges of the King’s Bench; whereupon I was brought again by an habeas corpus before them. I tendered them a paper, in which was contained what I could say instead of the oaths of allegiance and supremacy, as follows:
But since the matter had proceeded so far at Worcester, they would not meddle in it, but left me to appear again before the justices at the next general quarter sessions at Worcester.