Transcribed from the 1885 George Routledge and Sons edition by David Price, email firstname.lastname@example.org
THE HISTORY OF THOMAS ELLWOOD WRITTEN BY HIMSELF
INTRODUCTION BY HENRY MORLEY
The life of the simple Quaker, Thomas Ellwood, to whom the pomps and shows of earth were nowhere so vain as in association with the spiritual life of man, may serve as companion to another volume in this Library, the "Life of Wolsey" by George Cavendish, who, as a gentleman of the great prelate's household, made part of his pomp, but had heart to love him in his pride and in his fall. "The History of Thomas Ellwood, written by Himself," is interesting for the frankness with which it makes Thomas Ellwood himself known to us; and again, for the same frank simplicity that brings us nearer than books usually bring us to a living knowledge of some features of a bygone time; and yet again, because it helps us a little to come near to Milton in his daily life. He would be a good novelist who could invent as pleasant a book as this unaffected record of a quiet life touched by great influences in eventful times.
Thomas Ellwood, who was born in 1639, in the reign of Charles the First, carried the story of his life in this book to the year 1683, when he was forty-four years old. He outlived the days of trouble here recorded, enjoyed many years of peace, and died, near the end of Queen Anne's reign, aged 74, on the first of March 1713, in his house at Hunger Hill, by Amersham. He was eleven years younger than John Bunyan, and years younger than George Fox, the founder of that faithful band of worshippers known as the Society of Friends. They turned from all forms and ceremonies that involved untruth or insincerity, now the temple of God in man's body, and, as Saint Paul said the Corinthians, "Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you," they sought to bring Christ into their hearts, and speak and act as if Christ was within governing their words and actions. They would have no formal prayers, no formal preaching, but sought to speak with each other as the Spirit prompted, soul to soul. They would not, when our plural pronoun "you" was still only plural, speak to one man as if he were two or more. They swore not at all; but their "Yea" and "Nay" were known to be more binding than the oaths of many of their persecutors. And as they would not go through the required form of swearing allegiance to the Government whenever called upon to do so, they were continually liable to penalties of imprisonment when imprisonment too often meant jail fever, misery, and death. George Fox began his teaching when Ellwood was eight years old. Ellwood was ten years old when Fox was first imprisoned at Nottingham, and the offences of his followers against established forms led, as he says, to "great rage, blows, punchings, beatings, and imprisonments." Of what this rage meant, and of the spirit in which it was endured, we learn much from the History of Thomas Ellwood.
Isaac Penington, whose influence upon young Ellwood's mind is often referred to in this book, was born in the year of Shakespeare's death, and had joined the Society of Friends in 1658, when his own age was forty-two and Ellwood's was nineteen. He was the son of Alderman Isaac Penington, a Puritan member for the City of London, who announced, at a time in the year 1640 when the Parliament was in sore need of money, that his constituents had subscribed 21,000 pounds to a loan, which the members of the House then raised to 90,000 pounds, by rising, one after another, to give their personal bonds each for a thousand pounds. Isaac Penington the son, whom Ellwood loved as a friend and reverenced as a father, became a foremost worker and writer in the Society of Friends. In a note upon him, written after his death, Thomas Ellwood said that "in his family he was a true pattern of goodness and piety; to his wife he was a most affectionate husband; to his children, a loving and tender father; to his servants, a mild and gentle master; to his friends, a firm and fast friend; to the poor, compassionate and open-hearted; and to all, courteous and kind?' In 1661 he was committed to Aylesbury gaol for worshipping God in his own house (holding a conventicle), "where," says Ellwood in that little testimony which he wrote after his friend's death, "for seventeen weeks, great part of it in winter, he was kept in a cold and very incommodious room, without a chimney; from which hard usage his tender body contracted so great and violent a distemper that, for several weeks after, he was not able to turn himself in bed." "His second imprisonment," says Ellwood, "was in the year 1664, being taken out of a meeting, when he with others were peaceably waiting on the Lord, and sent to Aylesbury gaol, where he again remained a prisoner between seventeen and eighteen weeks.
"His third imprisonment was in the year 1665, being taken up, with many others, in the open street of Amersham, as they were carrying and accompanying the body of a deceased Friend to the grave. From hence he was sent again to Aylesbury gaol; but this commitment being in order to banishment, was but for a month, or thereabouts.
"His fourth imprisonment was in the same year 1665, about a month after his releasement from the former. Hitherto his commitment had been by the civil magistrates; but now, that he might experience the severity of each, he fell into the military hands. A rude soldier, without any other warrant than what he carried in his scabbard, came to his house, and told him he came to fetch him before Sir Philip Palmer, one of the deputy-lieutenants of the county. He meekly went, and was by him sent with a guard of soldiers to Aylesbury gaol, with a kind of mittimus, importing 'That the gaoler should receive and keep him in safe custody during the pleasure of the Earl of Bridgewater,' who had, it seems, conceived so great, as well as unjust, displeasure against this innocent man, that, although (it being the sickness year) the plague was suspected to be in the gaol, he would not be prevailed with only to permit Isaac Penington to be removed to another house in the town, and there kept prisoner until the gaol was clear. Afterwards, a prisoner dying in the gaol of the plague, the gaoler's wife, her husband being absent, gave leave to Isaac Penington to remove to another house, where he was shut up for six weeks; after which, by the procurement of the Earl of Ancram, a release was sent from the said Philip Palmer, by which he was discharged, after he had suffered imprisonment three-quarters of a year, with apparent hazard of his life, and that for no offence."
This was not the end of the troubles of Ellwood's patron and friend. He had been home only three weeks when "the said Philip Palmer" seized him again, dragged him out of bed, sent him, without any cause shown, to Aylesbury gaol, and kept him a year and a half prisoner "in rooms so cold, damp, and unhealthy, that it went very near to cost him his life, and procured him so great a distemper that he lay weak of it several months. At length a relation of his wife, by an habeas corpus, removed him to the King's Bench bar, where (with the wonder of the court that a man should he so long imprisoned for nothing) he was at last released in the year 1668." "Paradise Lost" had appeared in the year before. Yet a sixth imprisonment followed in 1670, when Penington, visiting some Friends in Reading gaol, was seized and carried before Sir William Armorer, a justice of the peace, who sent him back to share their sufferings. Penington died in 1679.
Of Thomas Ellwood's experience as reader to Milton, and of Milton's regard for the gentle Quaker, the book tells its own tale. I will only add one comment upon an often-quoted incident that it contains. When Milton gave his young friend—then twenty-six years old—the manuscript of "Paradise Lost" to read, his desire could only have been to learn what comprehension of his purpose there would be in a young man sincerely religious, as intelligent as most, and with a taste for verse, though not much of a poet. The observation Ellwood made, of which he is proud because of its consequence, might well cause Milton to be silent for a little while, and then change the conversation. It showed that the whole aim of the poem had been missed. Its crown is in the story of redemption, Paradise Found, the better Eden, the "Paradise within thee, happier far." Milton had applied his test, and learnt—what every great poet has to learn—that he must trust more to the vague impression of truth, beauty, and high thought, that can be made upon thousands of right- hearted men and women, than to the clear, full understanding of his work. The noblest aims of the true artist can make themselves felt by all, though understood by few. Few know the secrets of the sunshine, although all draw new life from the sun. When Milton— who, with his habitual gentleness, never allowed Ellwood to suspect that he had missed the whole purpose of "Paradise Lost"—showed him "Paradise Regained," and made him happy by telling him that he caused it to be written; he showed him a poem that expanded the closing thought of "Paradise Lost" into an image of the Paradise within, that is to be obtained only by an imitation of Christ under all forms of our temptation.
Of Ellwood's life after the year in which he ends his own account of it, let it suffice to say, that he wrote earnest, gentle books in support of his opinions and against the persecution of them. He lived retired until the year 1688, and occupied himself with an attempt at a Davideis, a Life of David in verse. He had not then seen Cowley's. Ellwood carried on his verses to the end of David's life, and published them in 1712. When George Fox died, in 1690, Thomas Ellwood transcribed his journal for the press, and printed it next year in folio, prefixing an account of Fox. He was engaged afterwards in controversy with George Keith, a seceder from the Friends. His intellectual activity continued unabated to the end. In 1709 he suffered distraint for tithes; goods to the value of 24 pounds 10s. being taken for a due of about 14 pounds, after which the distrainers "brought him still in debt, and wanted more."
Ellwood's life was healthy, except that he was asthmatic towards the end. His wife died five years before him. Of her, J. Wyeth, citizen of London, who was the editor of "Ellwood's History of his Life," and wrote its sequel, says that she was "a solid, weighty woman." But the context shows that he means those adjectives to be read in a spiritual sense. "The liberal soul shall be made fat," says Solomon.
H. M. November 1885.
THE HISTORY OF THOMAS ELLWOOD—WRITTEN BY HIMSELF
Although my station, not being so eminent either in the church of Christ or in the world as others who have moved in higher orbs, may not afford such considerable remarks as theirs, yet inasmuch as in the course of my travels through this vale of tears I have passed through various and some uncommon exercises, which the Lord hath been graciously pleased to support me under and conduct me through, I hold it a matter excusable at least, if not commendable, to give the world some little account of my life, that in recounting the many deliverances and preservations which the Lord hath vouchsafed to work for me, both I, by a grateful acknowledgment thereof and return of thanksgivings unto him therefor, may in some measure set forth His abundant goodness to me, and others, whose lot it may be to tread the same path and fall into the same or like exercises, may be encouraged to persevere in the way of holiness, and with full assurance of mind to trust in the Lord, whatsoever trials may befall them.
To begin therefore with mine own beginning, I was born in the year of our Lord 1639, about the beginning of the eighth month, so far as I have been able to inform myself, for the parish register, which relates to the time not of birth but of baptism, as they call it, is not to be relied on.
The place of my birth was a little country town called Crowell, situate in the upper side of Oxfordshire, three miles eastward from Thame, the nearest market town.
My father's name was Walter Ellwood, and my mother's maiden name was Elizabeth Potman, both well descended, but of declining families. So that what my father possessed (which was a pretty estate in lands, and more as I have heard in moneys) he received, as he had done his name Walter, from his grandfather Walter Gray, whose daughter and only child was his mother.
In my very infancy, when I was but about two years old, I was carried to London; for the civil war between King and Parliament breaking then forth, my father, who favoured the Parliament side, though he took not arms, not holding himself safe at his country habitation, which lay too near some garrisons of the King's, betook himself to London, that city then holding for the Parliament.
There was I bred up, though not without much difficulty, the city air not agreeing with my tender constitution, and there continued until Oxford was surrendered, and the war in appearance ended.
In this time my parents contracted an acquaintance and intimate friendship with the Lady Springett, who being then the widow of Sir William Springett, who died in the Parliament service, was afterwards the wife of Isaac Penington, eldest son of Alderman Penington, of London. And this friendship devolving from the parents to the children, I became an early and particular playfellow to her daughter Gulielma; being admitted, as such, to ride with her in her little coach, drawn by her footman about Lincoln's Inn Fields.
I mention this in this place because the continuation of that acquaintance and friendship, having been an occasional means of my being afterwards brought to the knowledge of the blessed TRUTH, I shall have frequent cause, in the course of the following discourse, to make honourable mention of that family, to which I am under so many and great obligations.
Soon after the surrender of Oxford my father returned to his estate at Crowell, which by that time he might have need enough to look after, having spent, I suppose, the greatest part of the moneys which had been left him by his grandfather in maintaining himself and his family at a high rate in London.
My elder brother (for I had one brother and two sisters, all elder than myself) was, while we lived in London, boarded at a private school, in the house of one Francis Atkinson, at a place called Hadley, near Barnet, in Hertfordshire, where he had made some good proficiency in the Latin and French tongues. But after we had left the city, and were re-settled in the country, he was taken from that private school and sent to the free school at Thame, in Oxfordshire.
Thither also was I sent as soon as my tender age would permit; for I was indeed but young when I went, and yet seemed younger than I was, by reason of my low and little stature. For it was held for some years a doubtful point whether I should not have proved a dwarf. But after I was arrived at the fifteenth year of my age, or thereabouts, I began to shoot up, and gave not up growing till I had attained the middle size and stature of men.
At this school, which at that time was in good reputation, I profited apace, having then a natural propensity to learning; so that at the first reading over of my lesson I commonly made myself master of it; and yet, which is strange to think of, few boys in the school wore out more birch than I. For though I was never, that I remember, whipped upon the score of not having my lesson ready, or of not saying it well, yet being a little busy boy, full of spirit, of a working head and active hand, I could not easily conform myself to the grave and sober rules and, as I then thought, severe orders of the school, but was often playing one waggish prank or other among my fellow-scholars, which subjected me to correction, so that I have come under the discipline of the rod twice in a forenoon; which yet brake no bones.
Had I been continued at this school, and in due time preferred to a higher, I might in likelihood have been a scholar, for I was observed to have a genius apt to learn. But my father having, so soon as the republican government began to settle, accepted the office of a justice of the peace (which was no way beneficial, but merely honorary, and every way expensive), and put himself into a port and course of living agreeably thereunto, and having also removed my brother from Thame school to Merton College in Oxford, and entered him there in the highest and most chargeable condition of a Fellow Commoner, he found it needful to retrench his expenses elsewhere, the hurt of which fell upon me. For he thereupon took me from school, to save the charge of maintaining me there; which was somewhat like plucking green fruit from the tree, and laying it by before it was come to its due ripeness, which will thenceforth shrink and wither, and lose that little juice and relish which it began to have.
Even so it fared with me. For being taken home when I was but young, and before I was well settled in my studies (though I had made a good progress in the Latin tongue, and was entered in the Greek) being left too much to myself, to ply or play with my books, or without them, as I pleased, I soon shook hands with my books by shaking my books out of my hands, and laying them by degrees quite aside, and addicted myself to such youthful sports and pleasures as the place afforded and my condition could reach unto.
By this means, in a little time I began to lose that little learning I had acquired at school, and by a continued disuse of my books became at length so utterly a stranger to learning, that I could not have read, far less have understood, a sentence in Latin: which I was so sensible of that I warily avoided reading to others, even in an English book, lest, if I should meet with a Latin word, I should shame myself by mispronouncing it.
Thus I went on, taking my swing in such vain courses as were accounted harmless recreations, entertaining my companions and familiar acquaintance with pleasant discourses in our conversations, by the mere force of mother-wit and natural parts, without the help of school cultivation; and was accounted good company too.
But I always sorted myself with persons of ingenuity, temperance, and sobriety; for I loathed scurrilities in conversation, and had a natural aversion to immoderate drinking. So that in the time of my greatest vanity I was preserved from profaneness and the grosser evils of the world, which rendered me acceptable to persons of the best note in that country then. I often waited on the Lord Wenman at his house, Thame Park, about two miles from Crowell, where I lived; to whose favour I held myself entitled in a twofold respect, both as my mother was nearly related to his lady, and as he had been pleased to bestow his name upon me, when he made large promises for me at the font. He was a person of great honour and virtue, and always gave me a kind reception at his table, how often soever I came. And I have cause to think I should have received from this lord some advantageous preferment in this world, as soon as he had found me capable of it (though betwixt him and my father there was not then so good an understanding as might have been wished), had I not been, in a little time after, called into the service of the best and highest Lord, and thereby lost the favour of all my friends, relations, and acquaintance of this world. To the account of which most happy exchange I hasten, and therefore willingly pass over many particularities of my youthful life. Yet one passage I am willing to mention, for the effect it had upon me afterwards, which was thus.
My father being then in the Commission of the Peace, and going to a Petty Sessions at Watlington, I waited on him thither. And when we came near the town, the coachman, seeing a nearer and easier way (than the common road) through a corn-field, and that it was wide enough for the wheels to run without damaging the corn, turned down there; which being observed by a husbandman who was at plough not far off, he ran to us, and stopping the coach, poured forth a mouthful of complaints, in none of the best language, for driving over the corn. My father mildly answered him, "That if there was an offence committed, he must rather impute it to his servant than himself, since he neither directed him to drive that way, nor knew which way he drove." Yet added, "That he was going to such an inn at the town, whither if he came he would make him full satisfaction for whatsoever damage he had sustained thereby." And so on we went, the man venting his discontent, as he went back, in angry accents. At the town, upon inquiry, we understood that it was a way often used, and without damage, being broad enough; but that it was not the common road, which yet lay not far from it, and was also good enough; wherefore my father bid his man drive home that way.
It was late in the evening when we returned, and very dark; and this quarrelsome man, who had troubled himself and us in the morning, having gotten another lusty fellow like himself to assist him, waylaid us in the night, expecting we would return the same way we came. But when they found we did not, but took the common way, they, angry that they were disappointed, and loth to lose their purpose (which was to put an abuse upon us), coasted over to us in the dark, and laying hold on the horses' bridles, stopped them from going on. My father, asking his man what the reason was that he went not on, was answered, "That there were two men at the horses' heads, who held them back, and would not suffer them to go forward." Whereupon my father, opening the boot, stepped out, and I followed close at his heels. Going up to the place where the men stood, he demanded of them the meaning of this assault. They said, "We were upon the corn." We knew by the route we were not on the corn, but in the common way, and told them so; but they told us, "They were resolved they would not let us go on any farther, but would make us go back again." My father endeavoured by gentle reasoning to persuade them to forbear, and not run themselves farther into the danger of the law, which they were run too far into already; but they rather derided him for it. Seeing therefore fair means would not work upon them, he spake more roughly to them, charging them to deliver their clubs (for each of them had a great club in his hand, somewhat like those which are called quarter-staves): they thereupon, laughing, told him, "They did not bring them thither for that end." Thereupon my father, turning his head to me, said, "Tom, disarm them."
I stood ready at his elbow, waiting only for the word of command. For being naturally of a bold spirit, full then of youthful heat, and that, too, heightened by the sense I had, not only of the abuse, but insolent behaviour of those rude fellows, my blood began to boil, and my fingers itched, as the saying is, to be dealing with them. Wherefore, stepping boldly forward to lay hold on the staff of him that was nearest to me, I said, "Sirrah, deliver your weapon." He thereupon raised his club, which was big enough to have knocked down an ox, intending no doubt to have knocked me down with it, as probably he would have done, had I not, in the twinkling of an eye, whipped out my rapier, and made a pass upon him. I could not have failed running of him through up to the hilt had he stood his ground, but the sudden and unexpected sight of my bright blade glittering in the dark night, did so amaze and terrify the man, that, slipping aside, he avoided my thrust, and letting his staff sink, betook himself to his heels for safety; which his companion seeing, fled also. I followed the former as fast as I could, but timor addidit alas (fear gave him wings), and made him swiftly fly; so that, although I was accounted very nimble, yet the farther we ran the more ground he gained on me; so that I could not overtake him, which made me think he took shelter under some bush, which he knew where to find, though I did not. Meanwhile, the coachman, who had sufficiently the outside of a man, excused himself from intermeddling under pretence that he durst not leave his horses, and so left me to shift for myself; and I was gone so far beyond my knowledge, that I understood not which way I was to go, till by halloing, and being halloed to again, I was directed where to find my company.
We had easy means to have found out who these men were (the principal of them having been in the daytime at the inn, and both quarrelled with the coachman, and threatened to be even with him when he went back); but since they came off no better in their attempt, my father thought it better not to know them, than to oblige himself to a prosecution of them.
At that time, and for a good while after, I had no regret upon my mind for what I had done, and designed to have done, in this case, but went on in a sort of bravery, resolving to kill, if I could, any man that should make the like attempt or put any affront on us; and for that reason seldom went afterwards upon those public services without a loaded pistol in my pocket. But when it pleased the Lord, in his infinite goodness, to call me out of the spirit and ways of the world, and give me the knowledge of his saving truth, whereby the actions of my fore-past life were set in order before me, a sort of horror seized on me, when I considered how near I had been to the staining of my hands with human blood. And whensoever afterwards I went that way, and indeed as often since as the matter has come into my remembrance, my soul has blessed the Lord for my deliverance, and thanksgivings and praises have arisen in my heart (as now at the relating of it, they do) to Him who preserved and withheld me from shedding man's blood. Which is the reason for which I have given this account of that action, that others may be warned by it.
About this time my dear and honoured mother, who was indeed a woman of singular worth and virtue, departed this life, having a little before heard of the death of her eldest son, who (falling under the displeasure of my father for refusing to resign his interest in an estate which my father sold, and thereupon desiring that he might have leave to travel, in hopes that time and absence might work a reconciliation) went into Ireland with a person powerful there in those times, by whose means he was quickly preferred to a place of trust and profit, but lived not long to enjoy it.
I mentioned before, that during my father's abode in London, in the time of the civil wars, he contracted a friendship with the Lady Springett, then a widow, and afterwards married to Isaac Penington, Esq., to continue which he sometimes visited them at their country lodgings, as at Datchet, and at Causham Lodge, near Reading. And having heard that they were come to live upon their own estate at Chalfont, in Buckinghamshire, about fifteen miles from Crowell, he went one day to visit them there, and to return at night, taking me with him.
But very much surprised we were when, being come thither, we first heard, then found, they were become Quakers; a people we had no knowledge of, and a name we had till then scarce heard of.
So great a change, from a free, debonair, and courtly sort of behaviour, which we formerly had found them in, to so strict a gravity as they now received us with did not a little amuse us, and disappoint our expectation of such a pleasant visit as we used to have, and had now promised ourselves. Nor could my father have any opportunity, by a private conference with them, to understand the ground or occasion of this change, there being some other strangers with them (related to Isaac Penington), who came that morning from London to visit them also.
For my part I sought and at length found means to cast myself into the company of the daughter, whom I found gathering some flowers in the garden, attended by her maid, who was also a Quaker. But when I addressed myself to her after my accustomed manner, with intention to engage her in some discourse which might introduce conversation on the footing of our former acquaintance, though she treated me with a courteous mien, yet, as young as she was, the gravity of her look and behaviour struck such an awe upon me, that I found myself not so much master of myself as to pursue any further converse with her. Wherefore, asking pardon for my boldness in having intruded myself into her private walks, I withdrew, not without some disorder (as I thought at least) of mind.
We stayed dinner, which was very handsome, and lacked nothing to recommend it to me but the want of mirth and pleasant discourse, which we could neither have with them, nor by reason of them, with one another amongst ourselves; the weightiness that was upon their spirits and countenances keeping down the lightness that would have been up in us. We stayed, notwithstanding, till the rest of the company took leave of them, and then we also, doing the same, returned, not greatly satisfied with our journey, nor knowing what in particular to find fault with.
Yet this good effect that visit had upon my father, who was then in the Commission of the Peace, that it disposed him to a more favourable opinion of and carriage towards those people when they came in his way, as not long after one of them did. For a young man, who lived in Buckinghamshire, came on a first-day to the church (so called) at a town called Chinner, a mile from Crowell, having, it seems, a pressure on his mind to say something to the minister of that parish. He being an acquaintance of mine, drew me sometimes to hear him, as it did then. The young man stood in the aisle before the pulpit all the time of the sermon, not speaking a word till the sermon and prayer after it were ended, and then spoke a few words to the priest, of which all that I could hear was, "That the prayer of the wicked is abomination to the Lord, and that God heareth not sinners."
Somewhat more, I think, he did say, which I could not distinctly hear for the noise the people made; and more probably he would have said, had he not been interrupted by the officers, who took him into custody, and led him out in order to carry him before my father.
When I understood that, I hastened home, that I might give my father a fair account of the matter before they came. I told him the young man behaved himself quietly and peaceably, spoke not a word till the minister had quite done his service, and that what he then spoke was but short, and was delivered without passion or ill language. This I knew would furnish my father with a fair ground whereon to discharge the man if he would.
And accordingly when they came, and made a high complaint against the man (who said little for himself), my father, having examined the officers who brought him—what the words that he spoke were (which they did not well agree in), and at what time he spoke them (which they all agreed to be after the minister had done), and then, whether he gave the minister any reviling language, or endeavoured to raise a tumult among the people (which they could not charge him with); not finding that he had broken the law, he counselled the young man to be careful that he did not make or occasion any public disturbance, and so dismissed him; which I was glad of.
Some time after this, my father, having gotten some further account of the people called Quakers, and being desirous to be informed concerning their principles, made another visit to Isaac Penington and his wife, at their house called the Grange, in Peter's Chalfont, and took both my sisters and me with him.
It was in the tenth month, in the year 1659, that we went thither, where we found a very kind reception, and tarried some days; one day at least the longer, for that while we were there a meeting was appointed at a place about a mile from thence, to which we were invited to go, and willingly went.
It was held in a farmhouse called the Grove, which having formerly been a gentleman's seat, had a very large hall, and that well filled.
To this meeting came Edward Burrough, besides other preachers, as Thomas Curtis and James Naylor, but none spoke there at that time but Edward Burrough, next to whom, as it were under him, it was my lot to sit on a stool by the side of a long table on which he sat, and I drank in his words with desire; for they not only answered my understanding, but warmed my heart with a certain heat, which I had not till then felt from the ministry of any man.
When the meeting was ended our friends took us home with them again; and after supper, the evenings being long, the servants of the family (who were Quakers) were called in, and we all sat down in silence. But long we had not so sat before Edward Burrough began to speak among us. And although he spoke not long, yet what he said did touch, as I suppose, my father's (religious) copyhold, as the phrase is. And he having been from his youth a professor, though not joined in that which is called close communion with any one sort, and valuing himself upon the knowledge he esteemed himself to have in the various notions of each profession, thought he had now a fair opportunity to display his knowledge, and thereupon began to make objections against what had been delivered.
The subject of the discourse was, "The universal free grace of God to all mankind," to which he opposed the Calvinistic tenet of particular and personal predestination; in defence of which indefensible notion he found himself more at a loss than he expected. Edward Burrough said not much to him upon it, though what he said was close and cogent; but James Naylor interposing, handled the subject with so much perspicuity and clear demonstration, that his reasoning seemed to be irresistible; and so I suppose my father found it, which made him willing to drop the discourse.
As for Edward Burrough, he was a brisk young man, of a ready tongue, and might have been, for aught I then knew, a scholar, which made me the less to admire his way of reasoning. But what dropt from James Naylor had the greater force upon me, because he looked but like a plain simple countryman, having the appearance of a husbandman or a shepherd.
As my father was not able to maintain the argument on his side, so neither did they seem willing to drive it to an extremity on their side; but treating him in a soft and gentle manner, did after a while let fall the discourse, and then we withdrew to our respective chambers.
The next morning we prepared to return home (that is, my father, my younger sister, and myself, for my elder sister was gone before by the stage-coach to London), and when, having taken our leaves of our friends, we went forth, they, with Edward Burrough, accompanying us to the gate, he there directed his speech in a few words to each of us severally, according to the sense he had of our several conditions. And when we were gone off, and they gone in again, they asking him what he thought of us, he answered them, as they afterwards told me, to this effect: "As for the old man, he is settled on his lees, and the young woman is light and airy; but the young man is reached, and may do well if he does not lose it." And surely that which he said to me, or rather that spirit in which he spoke it, took such fast hold on me, that I felt sadness and trouble come over me, though I did not distinctly understand what I was troubled for. I knew not what I ailed, but I knew I ailed something more than ordinary, and my heart was very heavy.
I found it was not so with my father and sister, for as I rode after the coach I could hear them talk pleasantly one to the other; but they could not discern how it was with me, because I, riding on horseback, kept much out of sight.
By the time we got home it was night; and the next day, being the first day of the week, I went in the afternoon to hear the minister of Chinner, and this was the last time I ever went to hear any of that function. After the sermon I went with him to his house, and in a freedom of discourse, which, from a certain intimacy that was between us, I commonly used with him, told him where I had been, what company I had met with there, and what observations I had made to myself thereupon. He seemed to understand as little of them as I had done before, and civilly abstained from casting any unhandsome reflections on them.
I had a desire to go to another meeting of the Quakers, and bade my father's man inquire if there was any in the country thereabouts. He thereupon told me he had heard at Isaac Penington's that there was to be a meeting at High Wycombe on Thursday next.
Thither therefore I went, though it was seven miles from me; and that I might be rather thought to go out a-coursing than to a meeting, I let my greyhound run by my horse's side.
When I came there, and had set up my horse at an inn, I was at a loss how to find the house where the meeting was to be. I knew it not, and was ashamed to ask after it; wherefore, having ordered the ostler to take care of my dog, I went into the street and stood at the inn gate, musing with myself what course to take. But I had not stood long ere I saw a horseman riding along the street, whom I remembered I had seen before at Isaac Penington's, and he put up his horse at the same inn. Him therefore I resolved to follow, supposing he was going to the meeting, as indeed he was.
Being come to the house, which proved to be John Raunce's, I saw the people sitting together in an outer room; wherefore I stepped in and sat down on the first void seat, the end of a bench just within the door, having my sword by my side and black clothes on, which drew some eyes upon me. It was not long ere one stood up and spoke, whom I was afterwards well acquainted with; his name was Samuel Thornton, and what he said was very suitable and of good service to me, for it reached home as if it had been directed to me.
As soon as ever the meeting was ended and the people began to rise, I, being next the door, stepped out quickly, and hastening to my inn, took horse immediately homewards, and (so far as I remember) my having been gone was not taken notice of by my father.
This latter meeting was like the clinching of a nail, confirming and fastening in my mind those good principles which had sunk into me at the former. My understanding began to open, and I felt some stirrings in my breast, tending to the work of a new creation in me. The general trouble and confusion of mind, which had for some days lain heavy upon me and pressed me down, without a distinct discovery of the particular cause for which it came, began now to wear off, and some glimmerings of light began to break forth in me, which let me see my inward state and condition towards God. The light, which before had shone in my darkness, and the darkness could not comprehend it, began now to shine out of darkness, and in some measure discovered to me what it was that had before clouded me and brought that sadness and trouble upon me. And now I saw that although I had been in a great degree preserved from the common immoralities and gross pollutions of the world, yet the spirit of the world had hitherto ruled in me, and led me into pride, flattery, vanity, and superfluity, all which was naught. I found there were many plants growing in me which were not of the heavenly Father's planting, and that all these, of whatever sort or kind they were, or how specious soever they might appear, must be plucked up.
Now was all my former life ripped up, and my sins by degrees were set in order before me. And though they looked not with so black a hue and so deep a dye as those of the lewdest sort of people did, yet I found that all sin (even that which had the fairest or finest show, as well as that which was more coarse and foul) brought guilt, and with and for guilt, condemnation on the soul that sinned. This I felt, and was greatly bowed down under the sense thereof.
Now also did I receive a new law—an inward law superadded to the outward—the law of the spirit of life in Christ Jesus, which wrought in me against all evil, not only in deed and in word, but even in thought also; so that everything was brought to judgment, and judgment passed upon all. So that I could not any longer go on in my former ways and course of life, for when I did, judgment took hold upon me for it.
Thus the Lord was graciously pleased to deal with me in somewhat like manner as he had dealt with his people Israel of old when they had transgressed his righteous law, whom by his prophet he called back, required to put away the evil of their doings, bidding them first cease to do evil, then learn to do well, before he would admit them to reason with him, and before he would impart to them the effects of his free mercy. (Isaiah i. 16, 17.)
I was now required by this inward and spiritual law (the law of the spirit of life in Christ Jesus) to put away the evil of my doings, and to cease to do evil; and what in particular the evil was which I was required to put away and to cease from, that measure of the divine light which was now manifested in me discovered to me, and what the light made manifest to be evil, judgment passed upon.
So that here began to be a way cast up before me for me to walk in— a direct and plain way, so plain that a wayfaring man, how weak and simple soever (though a fool to the wisdom and in the judgment of the world) could not err while he continued to walk in it, the error coming in by his going out of it. And this way with respect to me I saw was that measure of divine light which was manifested in me, by which the evil of my doings which I was to put away and to cease from was discovered to me.
By this divine light, then, I saw that though I had not the evil of the common uncleanness, debauchery, profaneness, and pollutions of the world to put away, because I had, through the great goodness of God and a civil education, been preserved out of those grosser evils, yet I had many other evils to put away and to cease from; some of which were not by the world, which lies in wickedness (1 John v. 19), accounted evils; but by the light of Christ were made manifest to me to be evils, and as such condemned in me.
As particularly those fruits and effects of pride that discover themselves in the vanity and superfluity of apparel; which I, as far as my ability would extend to, took, alas! too much delight in. This evil of my doings I was required to put away and cease from; and judgment lay upon me till I did so. Wherefore, in obedience to the inward law, which agreed with the outward (1 Tim. ii. 9; 1 Pet. iii. 3; 1 Tim. vi. 8; James i. 21), I took off from my apparel those unnecessary trimmings of lace, ribbons, and useless buttons, which had no real service, but were set on only for that which was by mistake called ornament; and I ceased to wear rings.
Again, the giving of flattering titles to men between whom and me there was not any relation to which such titles could be pretended to belong. This was an evil I had been much addicted to, and was accounted a ready artist in; therefore this evil also was I required to put away and cease from. So that thenceforward I durst not say, Sir, Master, My Lord, Madam (or My Dame); or say Your Servant to any one to whom I did not stand in the real relation of a servant, which I had never done to any.
Again, respect of persons, in uncovering the head and bowing the knee or body in salutation, was a practice I had been much in the use of; and this, being one of the vain customs of the world, introduced by the spirit of the world, instead of the true honour which this is a false representation of, and used in deceit as a token of respect by persons one to another, who bear no real respect one to another; and besides, this being a type and proper emblem of that divine honour which all ought to pay to Almighty God, and which all of all sorts, who take upon them the Christian name, appear in when they offer their prayers to Him, and therefore should not be given to men;—I found this to be one of those evils which I had been too long doing; therefore I was now required to put it away and cease from it.
Again, the corrupt and unsound form of speaking in the plural number to a single person, YOU to one, instead of THOU, contrary to the pure, plain, and single language of truth, THOU to one, and YOU to more than one, which had always been used by God to men, and men to God, as well as one to another, from the oldest record of time till corrupt men, for corrupt ends, in later and corrupt times, to flatter, fawn, and work upon the corrupt nature in men, brought in that false and senseless way of speaking YOU to one, which has since corrupted the modern languages, and hath greatly debased the spirits and depraved the manners of men;—this evil custom I had been as forward in as others, and this I was now called out of and required to cease from.
These and many more evil customs which had sprung up in the night of darkness and general apostacy from the truth and true religion, were now, by the inshining of this pure ray of divine light in my conscience, gradually discovered to me to be what I ought to cease from, shun, and stand a witness against.
But so subtly and withal so powerfully did the enemy work upon the weak part in me, as to persuade me that in these things I ought to make a difference between my father and all other men; and that therefore, though I did disuse these tokens of respect to others, yet I ought still to use them towards him, as he was my father. And so far did this wile of his prevail upon me, through a fear lest I should do amiss in withdrawing any sort of respect or honour from my father which was due unto him, that being thereby beguiled, I continued for a while to demean myself in the same manner towards him, with respect both to language and gesture, as I had always done before. And so long as I did so (standing bare before him, and giving him the accustomed language) he did not express—whatever he thought—any dislike of me.
But as to myself and the work begun in me, I found it was not enough for me to cease to do evil, though that was a good and a great step. I had another lesson before me, which was to learn to do well; which I could by no means do till I had given up with full purpose of mind to cease from doing evil.
And when I had done that, the enemy took advantage of my weakness to mislead me again.
For whereas I ought to have waited in the light for direction and guidance into and in the way of well-doing, and not to have moved till the divine Spirit (a manifestation of which the Lord has been pleased to give unto me for me to profit with or by), the enemy, transforming himself into the appearance of an angel of light, offered himself in that appearance to be my guide and leader into the performance of religious exercises. And I not then knowing the wiles of Satan, and being eager to be doing some acceptable service to God, too readily yielded myself to the conduct of my enemy instead of my friend.
He thereupon, humouring the warmth and zeal of my spirit, put me upon religious performances in my own will, in my own time, and in my own strength; which in themselves were good, and would have been profitable unto me and acceptable unto the Lord, if they had been performed in His will, in His time, and in the ability which He gives. But being wrought in the will of man and at the prompting of the evil one, no wonder that it did me hurt instead of good.
I read abundantly in the Bible, and would set myself tasks in reading, enjoining myself to read so many chapters, sometimes a whole book or long epistle, at a time. And I thought that time well spent, though I was not much the wiser for what I had read, reading it too cursorily, and without the true Guide, the Holy Spirit, which alone could open the understanding and give the true sense of what was read.
I prayed often, and drew out my prayers to a great length, and appointed unto myself certain set times to pray at, and a certain number of prayers to say in a day: we knew not meanwhile what true prayer was, which stands not in words, though the words which are uttered in the movings of the Holy Spirit are very available, but in the breathing of the soul to the heavenly Father through the operation of the Holy Spirit, who maketh intercession sometimes in words and sometimes with sighs and groans only, which the Lord vouchsafes to hear and answer.
This will-worship, which all is that is performed in the will of man and not in the movings of the Holy Spirit, was a great hurt to me, and hindrance of my spiritual growth in the way of truth. But my heavenly Father, who knew the sincerity of my soul to Him and the hearty desire I had to serve Him, had compassion on me, and in due time was graciously pleased to illuminate my understanding further, and to open in me an eye to discern the false spirit, and its way of working from the true, and to reject the former and cleave to the latter.
But though the enemy had by his subtlety gained such advantages over me, yet I went on notwithstanding, and firmly persisted in my godly resolution of ceasing from and denying those things which I was now convinced in my conscience were evil. And on this account a great trial came quickly on me; for the general Quarter Sessions for the Peace coming on, my father, willing to excuse himself from a dirty journey, commanded me to get up betimes and go to Oxford, and deliver in the recognisances he had taken, and bring him an account what justices were on the bench, and what principal pleas were before them; which he knew I knew how to do, having often attended him on those services.
I, who knew how it stood with me better than he did, felt a weight come over me as soon as he had spoken the word; for I presently saw it would bring a very great exercise upon me. But having never resisted his will in anything that was lawful, as this was, I attempted not to make any excuse, but ordering a horse to be ready for me early in the morning, I went to bed, having great strugglings in my breast.
For the enemy came in upon me like a flood, and set many difficulties before me, swelling them up to the highest pitch, by representing them as mountains which I should never be able to get over; and alas! that faith which could remove such mountains, and cast them into the sea, was but very small and weak in me.
He cast into my mind not only how I should behave myself in court and dispatch the business I was sent about, but how I should demean myself towards my acquaintance, of which I had many in that city, with whom I was wont to be jolly; whereas now I could not put off my hat, nor bow to any of them, nor give them their honorary titles (as they are called), nor use the corrupt language of YOU to any one of them, but must keep to the plain and true language of THOU and THEE.
Much of this nature revolved in my mind, thrown in by the enemy to discourage and cast me down. And I had none to have recourse to for counsel or help, but to the Lord alone; to whom therefore I poured forth my supplications, with earnest cries and breathings of soul, that He, in whom all power was, would enable me to go through this great exercise, and keep me faithful to Himself therein. And after some time He was pleased to compose my mind to stillness, and I went to rest.
Early next morning I got up, and found my spirit pretty calm and quiet, yet not without a fear upon me lest I should slip and let fall the testimony which I had to bear. And as I rode a frequent cry ran through me to the Lord, in this wise: "Oh, my God, preserve me faithful, whatever befalls me: suffer me not to be drawn into evil, how much scorn and contempt soever may be cast upon me."
Thus was my spirit exercised on the way almost continually; and when I was come within a mile or two of the city, whom should I meet upon the way coming from thence but Edward Burrough. I rode in a montero-cap (a dress more used then than now), and so did he; and because the weather was exceedingly sharp, we both had drawn our caps down, to shelter our faces from the cold, and by that means neither of us knew the other, but passed by without taking notice one of the other; till a few days after, meeting again, and observing each other's dress, we recollected where we had so lately met. Then thought I with myself, oh, how glad should I have been of a word of encouragement and counsel from him when I was under that weighty exercise of mind! But the Lord saw it was not good for me, that my reliance might be wholly upon Him, and not on man.
When I had set up my horse I went directly to the hall where the sessions were held, where I had been but a very little while before a knot of my old acquaintances, espying me, came to me. One of these was a scholar in his gown, another a surgeon of that city (both my school-fellows and fellow-boarders at Thame school), and the third a country gentleman with whom I had long been very familiar.
When they were come up to me they all saluted me after the usual manner, pulling off their hats and bowing, and saying, "Your humble servant, sir," expecting no doubt the like from me. But when they saw me stand still, not moving my cap, nor bowing my knee in way of congee to them, they were amazed, and looked first one upon another, then upon me, and then one upon another again, for a while, without speaking a word.
At length the surgeon, a brisk young man, who stood nearest to me, clapping his hand in a familiar way upon my shoulder, and smiling on me, said, "What, Tom! a Quaker?" To which I readily and cheerfully answered, "Yes, a Quaker." And as the words passed out of my mouth I felt joy spring in my heart; for I rejoiced that I had not been drawn out by them into a compliance with them, and that I had strength and boldness given me to confess myself to be one of that despised people.
They stayed not long with me nor said any more, that I remember to me; but looking somewhat confusedly one upon another, after a while took their leave of me, going off in the same ceremonious manner as they came on.
After they were gone I walked a while about the hall, and went up nearer to the court, to observe both what justices were on the bench and what business they had before them. And I went in fear, not of what they could or would have done to me if they should have taken notice of me, but lest I should be surprised, and drawn unwarily into that which I was to keep out of.
It was not long before the court adjourned to go to dinner, and that time I took to go to the Clerk of the Peace at his house, whom I was well acquainted with. So soon as I came into the room where he was he came and met me, and saluted me after his manner; for he had a great respect for my father and a kind regard for me. And though he was at first somewhat startled at my carriage and language, yet he treated me very civilly, without any reflection or show of lightness. I delivered him the recognisances which my father had sent, and having done the business I came upon, withdrew, and went to my inn to refresh myself, and then to return home.
But when I was ready to take horse, looking out into the street, I saw two or three justices standing just in the way where I was to ride. This brought a fresh concern upon me. I knew if they saw me they would know me; and I concluded, if they knew me, they would stop me and inquire after my father, and I doubted how I should come off with them.
This doubting brought weakness on me, and that weakness led to contrivance how I might avoid this trial. I knew the city pretty well, and remembered there was a back way, which though somewhat about, would bring me out of town without passing by those justices; yet loth I was to go that way. Wherefore I stayed a pretty time, in hopes they would have parted company, or removed to some other place out of my way. But when I had waited until I was uneasy for losing so much time, having entered into reasonings with flesh and blood, the weakness prevailed over me, and away I went the back way, which brought trouble and grief upon my spirit for having shunned the cross.
But the Lord looked on me with a tender eye, and seeing my heart was right to Him, and that what I had done was merely through weakness and fear of falling, and that I was sensible of my failing therein, and sorry for it, He was graciously pleased to pass it by, and speak peace to me again. So that before I got home, as when I went in the morning, my heart was full of breathing prayer to the Lord, that He would vouchsafe to be with me, and uphold and carry me through that day's exercise; so now at my return in the evening, my heart was full of thankful acknowledgments and praises unto Him for His great goodness and favour to me, in having thus far preserved and kept me from falling into anything that might have brought dishonour to His holy name, which I had now taken on me.
But notwithstanding that it was thus with me, and that I found peace and acceptance with the Lord in some good degree, according to my obedience to the convictions I had received by His holy Spirit in me, yet was not the veil so done away, or fully rent, but that there still remained a cloud upon my understanding with respect to my carriage towards my father. And that notion which the enemy had brought into my mind, that I ought to put such a difference between him and all others as that, on account of the paternal relation, I should still deport myself towards him, both in gesture and language, as I had always heretofore done, did yet prevail with me. So that when I came home I went to my father bareheaded, as I used to do, and gave him a particular account of the business he had given me in command, in such manner that we, observing no alteration in my carriage towards him, found no cause to take offence at me.
I had felt for some time before an earnest desire of mind to go again to Isaac Penington's, and I began to question whether, when my father should come (as I concluded ere long he would) to understand I inclined to settle among the people called Quakers, he would permit me the command of his horses, as before. Wherefore, in the morning when I went to Oxford I gave directions to a servant of his to go that day to a gentleman of my acquaintance, who I knew had a riding nag to put off either by sale or to be kept for his work, and desired him, in my name, to send him to me; which he did, and I found him in the stable when I came home.
On this nag I designed to ride next day to Isaac Penington's, and in order thereunto arose betimes and got myself ready for the journey; but because I would pay all due respect to my father, and not go without his consent, or knowledge at the least, I sent one up to him (for he was not yet stirring) to acquaint him that I had a purpose to go to Isaac Penington's, and desired to know if he pleased to command me any service to them. He sent me word he would speak with me before I went, and would have me come up to him, which I did, and stood by his bedside.
Then, in a mild and gentle tone, he said: "I understand you have a mind to go to Mr. Penington's." I answered, "I have so."—"Why," said he, "I wonder why you should. You were there, you know, but a few days ago, and unless you had business with them, don't you think it will look oddly?"—I said, "I thought not."—"I doubt," said he, "you'll tire them with your company, and make them think they shall be troubled with you."—"If," replied I, "I find anything of that, I'll make the shorter stay."—"But," said he, "can you propose any sort of business with them, more than a mere visit?"—"Yes," said I, "I propose to myself not only to see them, but to have some discourse with them."—"Why," said he, in a tone a little harsher, "I hope you don't incline to be of their way."—"Truly," answered I, "I like them and their way very well, so far as I yet understand it; and I am willing to go to them that I may understand it better."
Thereupon he began to reckon up a beadroll of faults against the Quakers, telling me they were a rude, unmannerly people, that would not give civil respect or honour to their superiors, no not to magistrates; that they held many dangerous principles; that they were an immodest shameless people; and that one of them stripped himself stark naked, and went in that unseemly manner about the streets, at fairs and on market days, in great towns.
To all the other charges I answered only, "That perhaps they might be either misreported or misunderstood, as the best of people had sometimes been." But to the last charge of going naked, a particular answer, by way of instance, was just then brought into my mind and put into my mouth, which I had not thought of before, and that was the example of Isaiah, who went naked among the people for a long time (Isaiah xx. 4). "Ay," said my father, "but you must consider that he was a prophet of the Lord, and had an express command from God to go so."
"Yes, sir," replied I, "I do consider that; but I consider also, that the Jews, among whom he lived, did not own him for a prophet, nor believe that he had such a command from God. And," added I, "how know we but that this Quaker may be a prophet too, and might be commanded to do as he did, for some reason which we understand not?"
This put my father to a stand; so that, letting fall his charges against the Quakers, he only said, "I would wish you not to go so soon, but take a little time to consider of it; you may visit Mr. Penington hereafter."—"Nay, sir," replied I, "pray don't hinder my going now, for I have so strong a desire to go that I do not well know how to forbear." And as I spoke those words, I withdrew gently to the chamber door, and then hastening down stairs, went immediately to the stable, where finding my horse ready bridled, I forthwith mounted, and went off, lest I should receive a countermand.
This discourse with my father had cast me somewhat back in my journey, and it being fifteen long miles thither, the ways bad, and my nag but small, it was in the afternoon that I got thither. And understanding by the servant that took my horse that there was then a meeting in the house (as there was weekly on that day, which was the fourth day of the week, though till then I understood it not), I hastened in, and knowing the rooms, went directly to the little parlour, where I found a few friends sitting together in silence, and I sat down among them well satisfied, though without words.
When the meeting was ended, and those of the company who were strangers withdrawn, I addressed myself to Isaac Penington and his wife, who received me courteously; but not knowing what exercise I had been in, and yet was under, nor having heard anything of me since I had been there before in another garb, were not forward at first to lay sudden hands on me, which I observed, and did not dislike. But as they came to see a change in me, not in habit only, but in gesture, speech, and carriage, and, which was more, in countenance also (for the exercise I had passed through, and yet was under, had imprinted a visible character of gravity upon my face), they were exceedingly kind and tender towards me.
There was then in the family a friend, whose name was Anne Curtis, the wife of Thomas Curtis, of Reading, who was come upon a visit to them, and particularly to see Mary Penington's daughter Guli, who had been ill of the small-pox since I had been there before. Betwixt Mary Penington and this friend I observed some private discourse and whisperings, and I had an apprehension that it was upon something that concerned me. Wherefore I took the freedom to ask Mary Penington if my coming thither had occasioned any inconvenience in the family. She asked me if I had had the small- pox; I told her no. She then told me her daughter had newly had them, and though she was well recovered of them, she had not as yet been down amongst them, but intended to have come down and sat with them in the parlour that evening, yet would rather forbear till another time, than endanger me; and that that was the matter they had been discoursing of. I assured her that I had always been, and then more especially was, free from any apprehension of danger in that respect, and therefore entreated that her daughter might come down. And although they were somewhat unwilling to yield to it, in regard to me, yet my importunity prevailed, and after supper she did come down and sit with us; and though the marks of the distemper were fresh upon her, yet they made no impression upon me, faith keeping out fear.
We spent much of the evening in retiredness of mind, our spirits being weightily gathered inward, so that not much discourse passed among us; neither they to me, nor I to them offered any occasion. Yet I had good satisfaction in that stillness, feeling my spirit drawn near to the Lord, and to them therein.
Before I went to bed they let me know that there was to be a meeting at Wycombe next day, and that some of the family would go to it. I was very glad of it, for I greatly desired to go to meetings, and this fell very aptly, it being in my way home. Next morning Isaac Penington himself went, having Anne Curtis with him, and I accompanied them.
At Wycombe we met with Edward Burrough, who came from Oxford thither that day that I, going thither, met him on the way; and having both our monter-caps on, we recollected that we had met, and passed by each other on the road unknown.
This was a monthly meeting, consisting of friends chiefly, who gathered to it from several parts of the country thereabouts, so that it was pretty large, and was held in a fair room in Jeremiah Stevens' house; the room where I had been at a meeting before, in John Raunce's house, being too little to receive us.
A very good meeting was this in itself and to me. Edward Burrough's ministry came forth among us in life and power, and the assembly was covered therewith. I also, according to my small capacity, had a share therein; for I felt some of that divine power working my spirit into a great tenderness, and not only confirming me in the course I had already entered, and strengthening me to go on therein, but rending also the veil somewhat further, and clearing my understanding in some other things which I had not seen before. For the Lord was pleased to make His discoveries to me by degrees, that the sight of too great a work, and too many enemies to encounter with at once, might not discourage me and make me faint.
When the meeting was ended, the friends of the town taking notice that I was the man that had been at their meeting the week before, whom they then did not know, some of them came and spoke lovingly to me, and would have had me stay with them; but Edward Burrough going home with Isaac Penington, he invited me to go back with him, which I willingly consented to, for the love I had more particularly to Edward Burrough, through whose ministry I had received the first awakening stroke, drew me to desire his company; and so away we rode together.
But I was somewhat disappointed of my expectation, for I hoped he would have given me both opportunity and encouragement to have opened myself to him, and to have poured forth my complaints, fears, doubts, and questionings into his bosom. But he, being sensible that I was truly reached, and that the witness of God was raised and the work of God rightly begun in me, chose to leave me to the guidance of the good Spirit in myself (the Counsellor that could resolve all doubts), that I might not have any dependence on man. Wherefore, although he was naturally of an open and free temper and carriage, and was afterwards always very familiar and affectionately kind to me, yet at this time he kept himself somewhat reserved, and showed only common kindness to me.
Next day we parted, he for London, I for home, under a very great weight and exercise upon my spirit. For I now saw, in and by the farther openings of the Divine light in me, that the enemy, by his false reasonings, had beguiled and misled me with respect to my carriage towards my father. For I now clearly saw that the honour due to parents did not consist in uncovering the head and bowing the body to them, but in a ready obedience to their lawful commands, and in performing all needful services unto them. Wherefore, as I was greatly troubled for what I already had done in that case, though it was through ignorance, so I plainly felt I could no longer continue therein without drawing upon myself the guilt of wilful disobedience, which I well knew would draw after it divine displeasure and judgment.
Hereupon the enemy assaulted me afresh, setting before me the danger I should run myself into of provoking my father to use severity towards me; and perhaps to be casting me utterly off. But over this temptation the Lord, who I cried unto, supported me, and gave me faith to believe that He would bear me through whatever might befall me on that account. Wherefore I resolved, in the strength which He should give me to be faithful to his requirings, whatever might come of it.
Thus labouring under various exercises on the way, I at length got home, expecting I should have but a rough reception from my father. But when I came home, I understood my father was from home; wherefore I sat down by the fire in the kitchen, keeping my mind retired to the Lord, with breathings of spirit to Him, that I might be preserved from falling.
After some time I heard the coach drive in, which put me into a little fear, and a sort of shivering came over me. But by that time he was alighted and come in I had pretty well recovered myself; and as soon as I saw him I rose up and advanced a step or two towards him, with my head covered, and said, "Isaac Penington and his wife remember their loves to thee."
He made a stop to hear what I said, and observing that I did not stand bare, and that I used the word THEE to him, he, with a stern countenance, and tone that spake high displeasure, only said, "I shall talk with you, sir, another time;" and so hastening from me, went into the parlour, and I saw him no more that night.
Though I foresaw there was a storm arising, the apprehension of which was uneasy to me, yet the peace which I felt in my own breast raised in me a return of thanksgiving to the Lord for His gracious supporting hand, which had thus far carried me through this exercise; with humble cries in spirit to Him that He would vouchsafe to stand by me in it to the end, and uphold me, that I might not fall.
My spirit longed to be among friends, and to be at some meeting with them on the first day, which now drew on, this being the sixth-day night. Wherefore I purposed to go to Oxford on the morrow (which was the seventh day of the week), having heard there was a meeting there. Accordingly, having ordered my horse to be made ready betimes, I got up in the morning and made myself ready also. Yet before I would go (that I might be as observant to my father as possibly I could) I desired my sister to go up to him in his chamber, and acquaint him that I had a mind to go to Oxford, and desired to know if he pleased to command me any service there. He bid her tell me he would not have me go till he had spoken with me; and getting up immediately, he hastened down to me before he was quite dressed.
As soon as he saw me standing with my hat on, his passion transporting him, he fell upon me with both his fists, and having by that means somewhat vented his anger, he plucked off my hat and threw it away. Then stepping hastily out to the stable, and seeing my borrowed nag stand ready saddled and bridled, he asked his man whence that horse came; who telling him he fetched it from Mr. Such- an-one's; "Then ride him presently back," said my father, "and tell Mr. —- I desire he will never lend my son a horse again unless he brings a note from me."
The poor fellow, who loved me well, would fain have made excuses and delays; but my father was positive in his command, and so urgent, that he would not let him stay so much as to take his breakfast (though he had five miles to ride), nor would he himself stir from the stable till he had seen the man mounted and gone.
Then coming in, he went up into his chamber to make himself more fully ready, thinking he had me safe enough now my horse was gone; for I took so much delight in riding that I seldom went on foot.
But while he was dressing himself in his chamber I (who understood what had been done), changing my boots for shoes, took another hat, and acquainting my sister, who loved me very well, and whom I could confide in, whither I meant to go, went out privately, and walked away to Wycombe, having seven long miles thither, which yet seemed little and easy to me, from the desire I had to be among friends.
As thus I travelled all alone, under a load of grief, from the sense I had of the opposition and hardship I was to expect from my father, the enemy took advantage to assault me again, casting a doubt into my mind whether I had done well in thus coming away from my father without his leave or knowledge.
I was quiet and peaceable in my spirit before this question was darted into me; but after that, disturbance and trouble seized upon me, so that I was at a stand what to do—whether to go forward or backward.
Fear of offending inclined me to go back, but desire of the meeting, and to be with friends, pressed me to go forward.
I stood still awhile to consider and weigh as well as I could the matter. I was sensibly satisfied that I had not left my father with any intention of undutifulness or disrespect to him, but merely in obedience to that drawing of spirit, which I was persuaded was of the Lord, to join with his people in worshipping Him; and this made me easy.
But then the enemy, to make me uneasy again, objected, "But how could that drawing be of the Lord which drew me to disobey my father?"
I considered thereupon the extent of paternal power, which I found was not wholly arbitrary and unlimited, but had bounds set unto it; so that as in civil matters it was restrained to things lawful, so in spiritual and religious cases it had not a compulsory power over conscience, which ought to be subject to the heavenly Father. And therefore, though obedience to parents be enjoined to children, yet it is with this limitation [in the Lord]: "Children, obey your parents in the Lord; for this is right" (1 Pet. vi. 1).
This turned the scale for going forward, and so on I went. And yet I was not wholly free from some fluctuations of mind, from the besettings of the enemy. Wherefore, although I knew that outward signs did not properly belong to the gospel dispensation, yet for my better assurance I did, in fear and great humility, beseech the Lord that he would be pleased so far to condescend to the weakness of his servant as to give me a sign by which I might certainly know whether my way was right before Him or not.
The sign which I asked was, "That if I had done wrong in coming as I did, I might be rejected or but coldly received at the place I was going to; but if this mine undertaking was right in His sight, He would give me favour with them I went to, so that they should receive me with hearty kindness and demonstrations of love." Accordingly, when I came to John Rance's house (which, being so much a stranger to all, I chose to go to, because I understood the meeting was commonly held there), they received me with more than ordinary kindness, especially Frances Rance, John Rance's then wife, who was both a grave and motherly woman, and had a hearty love to truth, and tenderness towards all that in sincerity sought after it. And this so kind reception, confirming me in the belief that my undertaking was approved of by the Lord, gave great satisfaction and ease to my mind; and I was thankful to the Lord therefor.
Thus it fared with me there; but at home it fared otherwise with my father. He, supposing I had betaken myself to my chamber when he took my hat from me, made no inquiry after me till evening came; and then, sitting by the fire and considering that the weather was very cold, he said to my sister, who sat by him: "Go up to your brother's chamber, and call him down; it may be he will sit there else, in a sullen fit, till he has caught cold." "Alas! sir," said she, "he is not in his chamber, nor in the house neither."
At that my farther, starting, said: "Why, where is he then?"—"I know not, sir," said she, "where he is; but I know that when he saw you had sent away his horse he put on shoes, and went out on foot, and I have not seen him since. And indeed, sir," added she, "I don't wonder at his going away, considering how you used him." This put my father into a great fright doubting I was gone quite away; and so great a passion of grief seized on him, that he forebore not to weep, and to cry out aloud, so that the family heard him: "Oh, my son! I shall never see him more; for he is of so bold and resolute a spirit that he will run himself into danger, and so may be thrown into some gaol or other, where he may lie and die before I can hear of him." Then bidding her light him up to his chamber, he went immediately to bed, where he lay restless and groaning, and often bemoaning himself and me, for the greater part of the night.
Next morning my sister sent a man (whom for his love to me she knew she could trust) to give me this account; and though by him she sent me also fresh linen for my use, in case I should go farther or stay out longer, yet she desired me to come home as soon as I could.
This account was very uneasy to me. I was much grieved that I had occasioned so much grief to my father; and I would have returned that evening after the meeting, but the Friends would not permit it, for the meeting would in all likelihood end late, the days being short, and the way was long and dirty. And besides, John Rance told me that he had something on his mind to speak to my father, and that if I would stay till the next day he would go down with me, hoping, perhaps, that while my father was under this sorrow for me he might work some good upon him. Hereupon concluding to stay till the morrow, I dismissed the man with the things he brought, bidding him tell my sister I intended, God willing, to return home to-morrow, and charging him not to let anybody else know that he had seen me, or where he had been.
Next morning John Rance and I set out, and when we were come to the end of the town we agreed that he should go before and knock at the great gate, and I would come a little after, and go in by the back way. He did so; and when a servant came to open the gate he asked if the Justice was at home. She told him, Yes; and desiring him to come in and sit down in the hall, went and acquainted her master that there was one who desired to speak with him. He, supposing it was one that came for justice, went readily into the hall to him; but he was not a little surprised when he found it was a Quaker. Yet not knowing on what account he came, he stayed to hear his business; but when he found it was about me he fell somewhat sharply on him.
In this time I was come by the back way into the kitchen, and hearing my father's voice so loud, I began to doubt things wrought not well; but I was soon assured of that. For my father having quickly enough of a Quaker's company, left John Rance in the hall, and came into the kitchen, where he was more surprised to find me.
The sight of my hat upon my head made him presently forget that I was that son of his whom he had so lately lamented as lost; and his passion of grief turning into anger, he could not contain himself, but running upon me with both his hands, first violently snatched off my hat and threw it away, then giving me some buffets on my head, he said, "Sirrah, get you up to your chamber."
I forthwith went, he following me at the heels, and now and then giving me a whirret on the ear, which, the way to my chamber lying through the hall where John Rance was, he, poor man, might see and be sorry for (as I doubt not but he was), but could not help me.
This was surely an unaccountable thing, that my father should but a day before express so high a sorrow for me, as fearing he should never see me any more, and yet now, so soon as he did see me, should fly upon me with such violence, and that only because I did not put off my hat, which he knew I did not put on in disrespect to him, but upon a religious principle. But as this hat-honour (as it was accounted) was grown to be a great idol, in those times more especially, so the Lord was pleased to engage His servants in a steady testimony against it, what suffering soever was brought upon them for it. And though some who have been called into the Lord's vineyard at later hours, and since the heat of that day hath been much over, may be apt to account this testimony a small thing to suffer so much upon, as some have done, not only to beating, but to fines and long and hard imprisonments; yet they who, in those times were faithfully exercised in and under it, durst not despise the day of small things, as knowing that he who should do so would not be thought worthy to be concerned in higher testimonies.
I had now lost one of my hats, and I had but one more. That therefore I put on, but did not keep it long; for the next time my father saw it on my head he tore it violently from me, and laid it up with the other, I knew not where. Wherefore I put on my montero- cap, which was all I had left to wear on my head, and it was but a very little while that I had that to wear, for as soon as my father came where I was I lost that also. And now I was forced to go bareheaded wherever I had occasion to go, within doors and without.
This was in the eleventh month, called January, and the weather sharp; so that I, who had been bred up more tenderly, took so great a cold in my head that my face and head were much swollen, and my gums had on them boils so sore that I could neither chew meat nor without difficulty swallow liquids. It held long, and I underwent much pain, without much pity except from my poor sister, who did what she could to give me ease; and at length, by frequent applications of figs and stoned raisins roasted, and laid to the boils as hot as I could bear them, they ripened fit for lancing, and soon after sunk; then I had ease.