Immagini della pagina
PDF
ePub

from all that went before, or followed after him, and more than a little confirms my present consideration. • I shall omit the recital of later and present testimo' nies : In Europe they are fresh, and in our sight.

It is not the property of religion to persecute religion ; that scorns to employ those weapons to her

defence, that others have used to her depression. 10 • is her privilege alone to conquer, naked of force or • artifice: and that person who hath not the election • of his religion, hath none.

For my own part, I know not any unfit for political societies, but those who maintain principles de• ftructive of industry, fidelity, justice and obedience,

in all matters relative of them, (wherefore the Ro' mans exiled their Mathematicos) which neither my· felf, nor any Quaker living, can with any shew of · reason be charged withal. But to conceit that men

must forin their faith of things proper to another ' world, by the prescriptions of mortal men, or else ? they can have no right to eat, drink, Neep, walk, • trade, be at liberty, or live in this, to me seems • both ridiculous and dangerous. Since it is most

certain, the understanding can never be convinced ? by other arguments than what are adequate to its

own nature ; which force is so remote from, that as - it abundantly expresseth passion or ignorance in those (who use it, so experimentally do we find, that it is

not only unsuccessful, by confirming persons that

really have reasons on their side, but greatly ob< durates also the unreasonable, who forget their own

weakness, by gazing on their persecutors, being "well assured, that whosoever is in the right, he al( ways is in the wrong, that by club-law and corpo(ral extremities thinks to illuminate and convince the

understanding : it. may make hypocrites, not converts; and if I am at any time convinced, I will pay the honour of it to truth, and not to base and timorous hypocrisy. Nor, indeed, are such inquiries material, as well as that it is unlawful to make so diligent search for conscience, and that in case

[ocr errors]

they they find her without the mark of publick allowance, and that she pays no custom, she must be " there forfeited. For who loves to ask at any shop,

of what religion the master is, and not rather what 'is his price for this or that commodity? It therefore

greatly were the king's interest to clear the prisons of all conscientious persons, especially since uniformity of mind is not less impoffible in all punctilios,

than is exact resemblance in visage, and men must 'be new-made in both respects, before they can be changed to gratify such desires.

However my case is singular, since wholly guiltless of what was charged against me; and if the observation of Tacitus on Lingonius's various cafe

be of any force, who, though he did deserve punish'ment indicted, yet because it was done without exa'mination, and due conviction, saith Tacitus, “ He “ suffered unlawfully;" then for a greater reason ' must my confinement seem injurious, who have been ' shut up above these six months, under a strict and

clofe imprisonment, from many common comforts ' and necessary concerns of life, without the least

formal cause or reason why exhibited against me, contrary, I conceive, to the natural privilege of an Englishman.

My hopes are, I shall not longer continue a pri'foner, merely to assure the world I am not innocent of what in very truth I am not guilty; nor yet that matters of lighter moment be sought to prolong my restraint, because as yet there is no law to deprive an inoffensive Englishman of so great and eminent a right as liberty : since this were too nearly to resemble the lamentable case of the innocent daughter of guilty Sejanus, who, because the Roman laws allowed not virgins to be strangled, was ' first deflowered, that she might be. My life shall

go before my chastity, let men contrive what they will. But, above all, methinks the name Christian imports so holy, so just, and so condescending a disposition, that these severities can have no plea Vol. I. B

from

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

< from such as have truly entitled themselves unto it.

For my own share, as it is my principle (as I have declared) to live myself, and encourage others, in the pursuit of just, fober, and industrious courses (which are the true grounds of all civil societies, and only ways to their prosperity) so in whatever I differ from

the publick establishment, it shall never find me ( remiss therein.

< But I beseech thee to intreat the king, on my account, not to believe every man to be his enemy, " that cannot shape his conscience by the narrow forms ( and prescripts of mens inventions, and the personal

obligations, besides the publick respect that I owe him, but above all, the holy forgiving TRUTH I profess, will never admit of such a thing; nor do we own one principle that will not, instead of acting us to his prejudice, at all times in our stations fit us to dispute with any (in civil matters) the first place

of obedience to his commands, our consciences being « left unprescribed.

< To conclude : since my adversaries have overshot " the mark, that the accusation is fictitious, and many

of them have publickly retracted their first opinions • of the matter, after so strict an imprisonment, with

out any legal cause, or just procedure, contrary to the privileges of every Englishman, as well as the meekness, forbearance, and compassion inseparable

from true Christianity ; I think it is time, and I desire · I may be ordered a release, to follow my ordinary

employments : but if it should yet be scrupled, or

denied, upon the least dissatisfaction unremoved, I - intreat the favour of access to the king, where I shall < freely and justly answer to all such interrogatories as

may concern my present case: or if that will not be " allowed, that it would please thee to give me a

full hearing to all such objections as may be thought ' to carry any weight; that so if I must remain a pri'foner, it may be known for what; and in the mean

time that such liberty may be granted me, as is customary for other prisoners to enjoy, after the first

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

or second month of their imprisonment, the season especially considered.

I make no apology for my letter as a trouble, the • usual stile of suppliants; because I think the honour that will accrue to thee, by being just, and releasing the oppressed, exceeds the advantage that can succeed to me: worthy and generous minds gladly embrace

occasions to assist the helpless, and then are most 'ready to afford them their assistance, when nothing • is to be got besides the hazard of expressing it. And · I am well assured the kindness and justice it shall

please thee to employ on that account, can never

miss of a plentiful reward from God, and praise of < all virtuous men.

Thy true friend, who suffers wrongfully, which

the Lord God forgive, if he lo please,

[merged small][ocr errors][merged small]

And in order to clear himself from the aspersions cast

upon him, in relation to the « doctrines of the Trinity, the incarnation and satisfaction of Christ,” he published a little book called, " Innocency with " her open face," by way of apology for the aforesaid

Sandy Foundation shaken.' In this apology he fo successfully vindicated himself, that soon after the publication of it, he was discharged from his imprisonment, which had been of about seven months continuance.

On the 15th of the 7th month this year, he set out again from London for Ireland, took shipping at Bristol on the 24th of the 8th month, and on the 26th arrived at Cork. In his passage thither, we think the following occurrence worth relating: · At his former

coming from Ireland, the conversation and society of a person called a Quaker, who came over in the ' fame vessel, was a strengthening and encouragement to him then newly convinced. This man now hapB 2

· pened • pened to return thither again in his company, and

observing how effectually the power of truth had ' wrought upon our author, and the great progrefs he

through a sincere obedience had made in his jour

ney heavenward, and seeing himself not only over• taken, but left far behind, by one that had set out . after him, was led to a solid reflection upon his own • negligence and unfaithfulness, and expresfed, with many tears, a renewed visitation and deep concern

upon his spirit.' So forcible is the example of the faithful, to the stirring up an holy zeal and emulation in others,

Being arrived at Cork, he immediately visited his friends imprisoned there, and the next day had a meeting with them, in which they were spiritually refreshed and comforted together: having tarried there fome days, he went from thence to Dublin, and on the 5th of the 9th month, was at the national meeting of friends there, which was held at his lodgings. At this meeting, an account of his friends sufferings being drawn up, by way of address, he presented the same a few days after to the lord-lieutenant.

During his stay in Ireland, though his business in the care of his father's estate took up a considerable part of his time, yet was he frequently present at, and preached in, friends meetings, especially at Dublin and Cork, in one of which places he ufually resided. He alfo wrote during his residence there, several treatises, particularly, - A Letter to the Young Convin“ ced.” He very frequently visited his friends in prison, and had meetings with them ; nor did he let slip any opportunity he had with those in authority, to folicit on their behalf : and in the beginning of the 4th month, 1670, through his repeated applications to the chancellor, the lord Arran, and the lord-lieutenant, an order of council was obtained for their release. Having settled his father's concerns to satise faction, and done his own friends many signal services, he shortly after returned into England.

[ocr errors]
« IndietroContinua »