Now was I laid up as a kind of prisoner for the rest of the winter, having no means to go forth among friends, nor they liberty to come to me. Wherefore I spent the time much in my chamber in waiting on the Lord, and in reading, mostly in the Bible.
But whenever I had occasion to speak to my father, though I had no hat now to offend him, yet my language did as much; for I durst not say "you" to him, but "thou" or "thee," as the occasion required, and then would he be sure to fall on me with his fists.
At one of these times, I remember, when he had beaten me in that manner, he commanded me, as he commonly did at such times, to go to my chamber, which I did, and he followed me to the bottom of the stairs. Being come thither, he gave me a parting blow, and in a very angry tone said: "Sirrah, if ever I hear you say 'thou' or 'thee' to me again, I'll strike your teeth down your throat." I was greatly grieved to hear him say so. And feeling a word rise in my heart unto him, I turned again, and calmly said unto him: "Would it not be just if God should serve thee so, when thou sayest Thou or Thee to Him?" Though his hand was up, I saw it sink and his countenance fall, and he turned away and left me standing there. But I, notwithstanding, went up into my chamber, and cried unto the Lord, earnestly beseeching Him that He would be pleased to open my father's eyes, that he might see whom he fought against, and for what; and that He would turn his heart.
After this I had a pretty time of rest and quiet from these disturbances, my father not saying anything to me, nor giving me occasion to say anything to him. But I was still under a kind of confinement, unless I would have run about the country bareheaded like a madman, which I did not see it was my place to do. For I found that, although to be abroad and at liberty among my friends would have been more pleasant to me, yet home was at present my proper place, a school in which I was to learn with patience to bear the cross; and I willingly submitted to it. But after some time a fresh storm, more fierce and sharp than any before, arose and fell upon me; the occasion thereof was this: My father, having been in his younger years, more especially while he lived in London, a constant hearer of those who are called Puritan preachers, had stored up a pretty stock of Scripture knowledge, did sometimes (not constantly, nor very often) cause his family to come together on a first day in the evening, and expound a chapter to them, and pray. His family now, as well as his estate, was lessened; for my mother was dead, my brother gone, and my elder sister at London; and having put off his husbandry, he had put off with it most of his servants, so that he had now but one man- and one maid-servant. It so fell out that on a first-day night he bade my sister, who sat with him in the parlour, call in the servants to prayer.
Whether this was done as a trial upon me or no, I know not, but a trial it proved to me; for they, loving me very well and disliking my father's carriage to me, made no haste to go in, but stayed a second summons. This so offended him that when at length they did go in, he, instead of going to prayer, examined them why they came not in when they were first called; and the answer they gave him being such as rather heightened than abated his displeasure, he with an angry tone said: "Call in that fellow" (meaning me, who was left alone in the kitchen), "for he is the cause of all this." They, as they were backward to go in themselves, so were not forward to call me in, fearing the effect of my father's displeasure would fall upon me, as soon it did, for I, hearing what was said, and not staying for the call, went in of myself. And as soon as I was come in, my father discharged his displeasure on me in very sharp and bitter expressions, which drew from me (in the grief of my heart, to see him so transported with passion) these few words: "They that can pray with such a spirit, let them; for my part, I cannot." With that my father flew upon me with both his fists, and not thinking that sufficient, stepped hastily to the place where his cane stood, and catching that up, laid on me, I thought, with all his strength. And I, being bareheaded, thought his blows must needs have broken my skull had I not laid mine arm over my head to defend it.
His man seeing this, and not able to contain himself, stepped in between us, and laying hold on the cane, by strength of hand held it so fast, that though he attempted not to take it away, yet he withheld my father from striking with it, which did but enrage him the more. I disliked this in the man, and bade him let go the cane and begone, which he immediately did, and turning to be gone, had a blow on his shoulders for his pains, which did not much hurt him.
But now my sister, fearing lest my father should fall upon me again, besought him to forbear, adding: "Indeed, sir, if you strike him any more, I will throw open the casement and cry out murder, for I am afraid you will kill my brother." This stopped his hand, and after some threatening speeches he commanded me to get to my chamber which I did, as I always did whenever he bade me.
Thither, soon after, my sister followed me, to see my arm and dress it, for it was indeed very much bruised and swelled between the wrist and the elbow, and in some places the skin was broken and beaten off. But though it was very sore, and I felt for some time much pain in it, yet I had peace and quietness in my mind, being more grieved for my father than for myself, who I knew had hurt himself more than me.
This was, so far as I remember, the last time that ever my father called his family to prayer; and this was also the last time that he ever fell, so severely at least, upon me.
Soon after this my elder sister, who in all the time of these exercises of mine had been at London, returned home, much troubled to find me a Quaker, a name of reproach and great contempt then, and she, being at London, had received, I suppose, the worst character of them. Yet though she disliked the people, her affectionate regard for me made her rather pity than despise me, and the more when she understood what hard usage I had met with.
The rest of the winter I spent in a lonesome solitary life, having none to converse with, none to unbosom myself unto, none to ask counsel of, none to seek relief from, but the Lord alone, who yet was more than all. And yet the company and society of faithful and judicious friends would, I thought, have been very welcome as well as helpful to me in my spiritual travail, in which I thought I made slow progress, my soul breathing after further attainments, the sense of which drew from me the following lines:
The winter tree Resembles me, Whose sap lies in its root: The spring draws nigh; As it, so I Shall bud, I hope, and shoot.
At length it pleased the Lord to move Isaac Penington and his wife to make a visit to my father, and see how it fared with me; and very welcome they were to me, whatever they were to him; to whom I doubt not but they would have been more welcome had it not been for me.
They tarried with us all night, and much discourse they had with my father, both about the principles of truth in general, and me in particular, which I was not privy to. But one thing I remember I afterwards heard of, which was this:
When my father and I were at their house some months before, Mary Penington, in some discourse between them, had told him how hardly her husband's father (Alderman Penington) had dealt with him about his hat; which my father (little then thinking that it would, and so soon too, be his own case) did very much censure the alderman for, wondering that so wise a man as he was should take notice of such a trivial thing as the putting off or keeping on a hat; and he spared not to blame him liberally for it.
This gave her a handle to take hold of him by; and having had an ancient acquaintance with him, and he having always had a high opinion of and respect for her, she, who was a woman of great wisdom, of ready speech, and of a well-resolved spirit, did press so close upon him with this home argument, that he was utterly at a loss how to defend himself.
After dinner next day, when they were ready to take coach to return home, she desired my father that, since my company was so little acceptable to him, he would give me leave to go and spend some time with them, where I should be sure to be welcome.
He was very unwilling I should go, and made many objections against it, all which she answered and removed so clearly, that not finding what excuse further to allege, he at length left it to me, and I soon turned the scale for going.
We were come to the coach-side before this was concluded on, and I was ready to step in, when one of my sisters privately put my father in mind that I had never a hat on. That somewhat startled him, for he did not think it fit I should go from home (and that so far and to stay abroad) without a hat. Wherefore he whispered to her to fetch me a hat, and he entertained them with some discourse in the meantime. But as soon as he saw the hat coning he would not stay till it came, lest I should put it on before him, but breaking off his discourse abruptly, took his leave of them, and hastened in before the hat was brought to me.
I had not one penny of money about me, nor indeed elsewhere; for my father, so soon as he saw that I would be a Quaker, took from me both what money I had and everything of value, or that would have made money, as some plate, buttons, rings, &c., pretending that he would keep them for me till I came to myself again, lest I should destroy them.
But as I had no money, so being among my friends I had no need of any, nor ever hankered after it; though once upon a particular occasion I had liked to have wanted it. The case was this:
I had been at Reading, and set out from thence on the first day of the week, in the morning, intending to reach (as in point of time I well might) Isaac Penington's, where the meeting was to be that day; but when I came to Maidenhead, a thoroughfare town on the way, I was stopped by the watch for riding on that day.
The watchman, laying hold on the bridle, told me I must go with him to the constable; and accordingly I, making no resistance, suffered him to lead my horse to the constable's door. When we were come there the constable told me I must go before the warden, who was the chief officer of that town, and bade the watchman bring me on, himself walking before.
Being come to the warden's door, the constable knocked, and desired to speak with Mr. Warden. He thereupon quickly coming to the door the constable said: "Sir, I have brought a man here to you whom the watch took riding through the town." The warden was a budge old man; and I looked somewhat big too, having a good gelding under me, and a good riding-coat on my back, both which my friend Isaac Penington had kindly accommodated me with for that journey.
The warden therefore taking me to be (as the saying is) somebody, put off his hat and made a low congee to me; but when he saw that I sat still, and neither bowed to him nor moved my hat, he gave a start, and said to the constable: "You said you had brought a man, but he don't behave like a man."
I sat still upon my horse and said not a word, but kept my mind retired to the Lord, waiting to see what this would come to.
The warden then began to examine me, asking me whence I came and whither I was going; I told him I came from Reading and was going to Chalfont. He asked me why I did travel on that day; I told him I did not know that it would give any offence barely to ride or to walk on that day, so long as I did not carry or drive any carriage or horses laden with burthens. "Why," said he, "if your business was urgent, did you not take a pass from the mayor of Reading?"— "Because," replied I, "I did not know nor think I should have needed one."—"Well," said he, "I will not talk with you now, because it is time to go to church, but I will examine you further anon." And turning to the constable, "Have him," said he, "to an inn, and bring him before me after dinner."
The naming of an inn put me in mind that such public-houses were places of expense, and I knew I had no money to defray it; wherefore I said to the warden: "Before thou sendest me to an inn, which may occasion some expense, I think it needful to acquaint thee that I have no money."
At that the warden started again, and turning quickly upon me, said: "How! no money! How can that be? You don't look like a man that has no money."—"However I look," said I, "I tell thee the truth, that I have no money; and I tell it to forewarn thee, that thou mayest not bring any charge upon the town."—"I wonder," said he, "what art you have got, that you can travel without money; you can do more, I assure you, than I can."
I making no answer, he went on and said: "Well, well! but if you have no money, you have a good horse under you, and we can distrain him for the charge."—"But," said I, "the horse is not mine."—"No," said he; "but you have a good coat on your back, and that I hope is your own."—"No," said I, "but it is not, for I borrowed both the horse and the coat."
With that the warden, holding up his hands and smiling, said: "Bless me! I never met with such a man as you are before. What! were you set out by the parish?" Then turning to the constable, he said: "Have him to the Greyhound, and bid the people be civil to him." Accordingly, to the Greyhound I was led, my horse set up, and I put into a large room, and some account, I suppose, given of me to the people of the house.
This was new work to me, and what the issue of it would be I could not foresee; but being left there alone, I sat down, and retired in spirit to the Lord, in whom alone my strength and safety were, and begged support of Him; even that He would be pleased to give me wisdom and words to answer the warden when I should come to be examined again before him.
After some time, having pen, ink, and paper about me, I set myself to write what I thought might be proper, if occasion served, to give the warden; and while I was writing, the master of the house, being come home from his worship, sent the tapster to me to invite me to dine with him. I bid him tell his master that I had not any money to pay for my dinner. He sent the man again to tell me I should be welcome to dine with him though I had no money. I desired him to tell his master "that I was very sensible of his civility and kindness in so courteously inviting me to his table, but I had not freedom to eat of his meat unless I could have paid for it." So he went on with his dinner, and I with my writing.
But before I had finished what was on my mind to write, the constable came again, bringing with him his fellow-constable. This was a brisk genteel young man, a shopkeeper in the town, whose name was Cherry. They saluted me very civilly, and told me they were come to have me before the warden. This put an end to my writing, which I put into my pocket, and went along with them.
Being come to the warden's, he asked me again the same questions he had asked me before; to which I gave him the like answers. Then he told me the penalty I had incurred, which he said was either to pay so much money or lie so many hours in the stocks, and asked me which I would choose; I replied, "I shall not choose either. And," said I, "I have told thee already that I have no money; though if I had, I could not so far acknowledge myself an offender as to pay any. But as to lying in the stocks, I am in thy power, to do unto me what it shall please the Lord to suffer thee."
When he heard that he paused awhile, and then told me, "He considered that I was but a young man, and might not perhaps understand the danger I had brought myself into, and therefore he would not use the severity of the law upon me; but, in hopes that I would be wiser hereafter, he would pass by this offence and discharge me.
Then putting on a countenance of the greatest gravity, he said to me: "But, young man, I would have you know that you have not only broken the law of the land, but the law of God also; and therefore you ought to ask His forgiveness, for you have highly offended Him."—"That," said I, "I would most willingly do if I were sensible that in this case I had offended Him by breaking any law of His."
"Why," said he, "do you question that?"—"Yes truly," said I; "for I do not know that any law of God doth forbid me to ride on this day."
"No!" said he: "that's strange. Where, I wonder, was you bred? You can read, can't you?"—"Yes," said I, "that I can."—"Don't you then read," said he, "the commandment, 'Remember the Sabbath-day to keep it holy. Six days shalt thou labour and do all thy work; but the seventh day is the Sabbath of the Lord; in it thou shalt not do any work.'"—"Yes," replied I, "I have both read it often, and remember it very well. But that command was given to the Jews, not to Christians; and this is not that day, for that was the seventh day, but this is the first."—"How," said he, "do you know the days of the week no better? You had need then be better taught."
Here the younger constable, whose name was Cherry, interposing, said: "Mr. Warden, the gentleman is in the right as to that, for this is the first day of the week, and not the seventh."
This the old warden took in dudgeon, and looking severely on the constable, said: "What! do you take upon you to teach me? I'll have you know I will not be taught by you."—"As you please for that, sir," said the constable; "but I am sure you are mistaken in this point; for Saturday I know is the seventh day, and you know yesterday was Saturday."
This made the warden hot and testy, and put him almost out of all patience, so that I feared it would have come to a downright quarrel betwixt them, for both were confident and neither would yield; and so earnestly were they engaged in the contest, that there was no room for me to put in a word between them.
At length the old man, having talked himself out of wind, stood still awhile as it were to take breath, and then bethinking himself of me, he turned to me and said: "You are discharged, and may take your liberty to go about your occasions."—"But," said I, "I desire my horse may be discharged too, else I know not how to go."—"Ay, ay," said he, "you shall have your horse;" and turning to the other constable, who had not offended him, he said: "Go, see that his horse be delivered to him."
Away thereupon went I with that constable, leaving the old warden and the young constable to compose their difference as they could. Being come to the inn, the constable called for my horse to be brought out; which done, I immediately mounted, and began to set forward. But the hostler, not knowing the condition of my pocket, said modestly to me: "Sir, don't you forget to pay for your horse's standing?"—"No, truly," said I, "I don't forget it; but I have no money to pay it with, and so I told the warden before."—"Well, hold your tongue," said the constable to the hostler; "I'll see you paid." Then opening the gate, they let me out, the constable wishing me a good journey, and through the town I rode without further molestation; though it was as much sabbath, I thought, when I went out as it was when I came in.
A secret joy arose in me as I rode on the way, for that I had been preserved from doing or saying anything which might give the adversaries of truth advantage against it, or the friends of it; and praises sprang in my thankful heart to the Lord, my preserver.
It added also not a little to my joy that I felt the Lord near unto me, by his witness in my heart, to check and warn me; and my spirit was so far subjected to him as readily to take warning, and stop at his check; an instance of both that very morning I had.
For as I rode between Reading and Maidenhead I saw lying in my way the scabbard of a hanger, which, having lost its hook, had slipped off, I suppose, and dropped from the side of the wearer; and it had in it a pair of knives, whose hafts being inlaid with silver, seemed to be of some value. I alighted and took it up, and clapping it between my thigh and the saddle, rode on a little way; but I quickly found it too heavy for me, and the reprover in me soon began to check. The word arose in me, "What hast thou to do with that? Doth it belong to thee?" I felt I had done amiss in taking it; wherefore I turned back to the place where it lay, and laid it down where I found it. And when afterwards I was stopped and seized on at Maidenhead, I saw there was a Providence in not bringing it with me; which, if it should have been found (as it needs must) under my coat when I came to be unhorsed, might have raised some evil suspicion or sinister thoughts concerning me.
The stop I met with at Maidenhead had spent me so much time that when I came to Isaac Penington's the meeting there was half over, which gave them occasion after meeting to inquire of me if anything had befallen me on the way which had caused me to come so late: whereupon I related to them what exercise I had met with, and how the Lord had helped me through it: which when they had heard, they rejoiced with me, and for my sake.
Great was the love and manifold the kindness which I received from these my worthy friends, Isaac and Mary Penington, while I abode in their family. They were indeed as affectionate parents and tender nurses to me in this time of my religious childhood. For besides their weighty and seasonable counsels and exemplary conversations, they furnished me with means to go to the other meetings of Friends in that country, when the meeting was not in their own house. And indeed, the time I stayed with them was so well spent, that it not only yielded great satisfaction to my mind but turned in good measure to my spiritual advantage in the truth.
But that I might not, on the one hand, bear too hard upon my friends, nor on the other hand forget the house of thraldom, after I had staid with them some six or seven weeks (from the time called Easter to the time called Whitsuntide) I took my leave of them to depart home, intending to walk to Wycombe in one day, and from thence home in another.
That day that I came home I did not see my father, nor until noon the next day, when I went into the parlour, where he was, to take my usual place at dinner.
As soon as I came in I observed by my father's countenance that my hat was still an offence to him; but when I was sat down, and before I had eaten anything, he made me understand it more fully by saying to me, but in a milder tone than he had formerly used to speak to me in, "If you cannot content yourself to come to dinner without your hive on your head (so he called my hat), pray rise, and go take your dinner somewhere else."
Upon these words I arose from the table, and leaving the room went into the kitchen, where I stayed till the servants went to dinner, and then sat down very contentedly with them. Yet I suppose my father might intend that I should have gone into some other room, and there have eaten by myself but I chose rather to eat with the servants, and did so from thenceforward so long as he and I lived together. And from this time he rather chose, as I thought, to avoid seeing me than to renew the quarrel about my hat.
My sisters, meanwhile observing my weariness in words and behaviour, and being satisfied, I suppose, that I acted upon a principle of religion and conscience, carried themselves very kindly to me, and did what they could to mitigate my father's displeasure against me. So that I now enjoyed much more quiet at home, and took more liberty to go abroad amongst my friends, than I had done or could do before. And having informed myself where any meetings of Friends were holden, within a reasonable distance from me, I resorted to them.
At first I went to a town called Hoddenham, in Buckinghamshire, five miles from my father's, where, at the house of one Belson, a few who were called Quakers did meet sometimes on a first day of the week; but I found little satisfaction there. Afterwards, upon further inquiry, I understood there was a settled meeting at a little village called Meadle, about four long miles from me, in the house of one John White, which is continued there still; and to that thenceforward I constantly went while I abode in that country, and was able. Many a sore day's travel have I had thither and back again, being commonly in the winter time (how fair soever the weather was overhead) wet up to the ankles at least; yet, through the goodness of the Lord to me, I was preserved in health.
A little meeting also there was on the fourth day of the week at a town called Bledlow (two miles from me), in the house of one Thomas Saunders, who professed the truth; but his wife, whose name was Damaris, did possess it (she being a woman of great sincerity and lively sense), and to that meeting also I usually went.
But though I took this liberty for the service of God, that I might worship Him in the assemblies of His people, yet did I not use it upon other occasions, but spent my time on other days for the most part in my chamber, in retiredness of mind, waiting on the Lord. And the Lord was graciously pleased to visit me, by His quickening spirit and life, so that I came to feel the operation of His power in my heart, working out that which was contrary to His will, and giving me, in measure, dominion over it.
And as my spirit was kept in due subjection to this divine power, I grew into a nearer acquaintance with the Lord; and the Lord vouchsafed to speak unto me in the inward of my soul, and to open my understanding in His fear, to receive counsel from Him; so that I not only at some times heard His voice, but could distinguish His voice from that of the enemy.
As thus I daily waited on the Lord a weighty and unusual exercise came upon me, which bowed my spirit very low before the Lord. I had seen, in the light of the Lord, the horrible guilt of those deceitful priests, of divers sorts and denominations, who made a trade of preaching, and for filthy lucre sake held the people always learning; yet so taught them as that, by their teaching and ministry, they were never able to come to the knowledge, much less to the acknowledgment, of the truth; for as they themselves hated the light, because their own deeds were evil, so by reviling, reproaching, and blaspheming the true light, wherewith every man that cometh into the world is enlightened (John i. 9), they begat in the people a disesteem of the light, and laboured as much as in them lay to keep their hearers in the darkness, that they might not be turned to the light in themselves, lest by the light they should discover the wickedness of these their deceitful teachers, and turn from them.
Against this practice of these false teachers the zeal of the Lord had flamed in my breast for some time; and now the burthen of the word of the Lord against them fell heavily upon me, with command to proclaim his controversy against them.
Fain would I have been excused from this service, which I judged too heavy for me; wherefore I besought the Lord to take this weight from off me, who was in every respect but young, and lay it upon some other of His servants, of whom he had many, who were much more able and fit for it. But the Lord would not be entreated, but continued the burden upon me with greater weight; requiring obedience from me, and promising to assist me therein. Whereupon I arose from my bed, and in the fear and dread of the Lord committed to writing what He, in the motion of His divine Spirit, dictated to me to write. When I had done it, though the sharpness of the message therein delivered was hard to my nature to be the publisher of, yet I found acceptance with the Lord in my obedience to His will, and His peace filled my heart. As soon as I could I communicated to my friends what I had written; and it was printed in the year 1660, in one sheet of paper, under the title of "An Alarm to the Priests; or, A Message from Heaven to Forewarn them," &c.
Some time after the publishing of this paper, having occasion to go to London, I went to visit George Fox the younger, who with another Friend was then a prisoner in a messenger's hands. I had never seen him, nor he me before; yet this paper lying on the table before him, he, pointing to it, asked me if I was the person that wrote it. I told him I was. "It's much," said the other Friend, "that they bear it." "It is," replied he, "their portion, and they must bear it."
While I was then in London I went to a little meeting of Friends which was then held in the house of one Humphrey Bache, a goldsmith, at the sign of the Snail, in Tower Street. It was then a very troublesome time, not from the government, but from the rabble of boys and rude people, who upon the turn of the time (at the return of the King) took liberty to be very abusive.
When the meeting ended, a pretty number of these unruly folk were got together at the door, ready to receive the Friends as they came forth, not only with evil words, but with blows; which I saw they bestowed freely on some of them that were gone out before me, and expected I should have my share of when I came amongst them. But, quite contrary to my expectation, when I came out, they said one to another, "Let him alone; don't meddle with him; he is no Quaker, I'll warrant you."
This struck me, and was worse to me than if they had laid their fists on me, as they did on others. I was troubled to think what the matter was, or what these rude people saw in me that made them not take me for a Quaker. And upon a close examination of myself, with respect to my habit and deportment, I could not find anything to place it on, but that I had then on my head a large montero-cap of black velvet, the skirt of which being turned up in folds, looked, it seems, somewhat above the then common garb of a Quaker; and this put me out of conceit with my cap.
I came at this time to London from Isaac Penington's, and thither I went again in my way home; and while I stayed there, amongst other Friends who came thither, Thomas Loe, of Oxford, was one. A faithful and diligent labourer he was in the work of the Lord, and an excellent ministerial gift he had. And I, in my zeal for truth, being very desirous that my neighbours might have the opportunity of hearing the gospel, the glad tidings of salvation, livingly and powerfully preached among them, entered into communication with him about it; offering to procure some convenient place in the town where I lived for a meeting to be held, and to invite my neighbours to it, if he could give me any ground to expect his company at it. He told me he was not at his own command, but at the Lord's, and he knew not how He might dispose of him; but wished me, if I found when I was come home that the thing continued with weight upon my mind, and that I could get a fit place for a meeting, I would advertise him of it by a few lines directed to him in Oxford, whither he was then going, and he might then let me know how his freedom stood in that matter.
When therefore I was come home, and had treated with a neighbour for a place to have a meeting in, I wrote to my friend Thomas Loe, to acquaint him that I had procured a place for a meeting, and would invite company to it, if he would fix the time, and give me some ground to hope that he would be at it.
This letter I sent by a neighbour to Thame to be given to a dyer of Oxford, who constantly kept Thame market, with whom I was pretty well acquainted, having sometimes formerly used him not only in his way of trade, but to carry letters between my brother and me when he was a student in that University, for which he was always paid; and had been so careful in the delivery that our letters had always gone safe until now. But this time (Providence so ordering, or at least for my trial permitting it) this letter of mine, instead of being delivered according to its direction, was seized and carried, as I was told, to the Lord Faulkland, who was then called Lord Lieutenant of that county.
The occasion of this stopping of letters at that time was that mad prank of those infatuated fifth-monarchy men, who from their meeting-house in Coleman Street, London, breaking forth in arms, under the command of their chieftain Venner, made an insurrection in the city, on pretence of setting up the kingdom of Jesus, who, it is said, they expected would come down from heaven to be their leader; so little understood they the nature of his kingdom, though he himself had declared it was not of this world.
The King, a little before his arrival in England, had by his declaration from Breda given assurance of liberty to tender consciences, and that no man should be disquieted or called in question for difference of opinion in matters of religion which do not disturb the peace of the kingdom. Upon this assurance dissenters of all sorts relied, and held themselves secure. But now, by this frantic action of a few hot-brained men, the King was by some holden discharged from his royal word and promise, in his foregoing declaration publicly given. And hereupon letters were intercepted and broken open, for discovery of suspected plots and designs against the government; and not only dissenters meetings' of all sorts, without distinction, were disturbed, but very many were imprisoned in most parts throughout the nation; and great search there was in all countries for suspected persons, who, if not found at meetings, were fetched in from their own houses.
The Lord Lieutenant (so called) of Oxfordshire had on this occasion taken Thomas Loe and many others of our friends at a meeting, and sent them prisoners to Oxford Castle, just before my letter was brought to his hand, wherein I had invited Thomas Loe to a meeting; and he, putting the worst construction upon it, as if I, a poor simple lad, had intended a seditious meeting, in order to raise rebellion, ordered two of the deputy-lieutenants who lived nearest to me to send a party of horse to fetch me in.
Accordingly, while I wholly ignorant of what had passed at Oxford, was in daily expectation of an agreeable answer to my letter, came a party of horse one morning to my father's gate, and asked for me.
It so fell out that my father was at that time from home, I think in London; whereupon he that commanded the party alighted and came in. My eldest sister, hearing the noise of soldiers, came hastily up into my chamber, and told me there were soldiers below, who inquired for me. I forthwith went down to them, and found the commander was a barber of Thame, and one who had always been my barber till I was a Quaker. His name was Whately, a bold brisk fellow.
I asked him what his business was with me: he told me I must go with him. I demanded to see his warrant: he laid his hand on his sword, and said that was his warrant. I told him though that was not a legal warrant, yet I would not dispute it, but was ready to bear injuries. He told me he could not help it; he was commanded to bring me forthwith before the deputy-lieutenants, and therefore desired me to order a horse to be got ready, because he was in haste. I let him know I had no horse of my own, and would not meddle with any of my father's horses, in his absence especially; and that therefore, if he would have me with him, he must carry me as he could.
He thereupon taking my sister aside, told her he found I was resolute, and his orders were peremptory; wherefore he desired that she would give order for a horse to be made ready for me, for otherwise he should be forced to mount me behind a trooper, which would be very unsuitable for me, and which he was very unwilling to do. She thereupon ordered a horse to be got ready, upon which, when I had taken leave of my sisters, I mounted, and went off, not knowing whither he intended to carry me.
He had orders, it seems, to take some others also in a neighbouring village, whose names he had, but their houses he did not know. Wherefore, as we rode he asked me if I knew such and such men (whom he named) and where they lived; and when he understood that I knew them, he desired me to show him their houses. "No," said I, "I scorn to be an informer against my neighbours, to bring them into trouble." He thereupon, riding to and fro, found by inquiry most of their houses; but, as it happened, found none of them at home, at which I was glad.
At length he brought me to the house of one called Esquire Clark, of Weston, by Thame, who, being afterwards knighted, was called Sir John Clark; a jolly man, too much addicted to drinking in soberer times, but was now grown more licentious that way, as the times did now more favour debauchery. He and I had known one another for some years, though not very intimately, having met sometimes at the Lord Wenman's table.
This Clark was one of the deputy-lieutenants whom I was to be brought before; and he had gotten another thither to join with him in tendering me the oaths, whom I knew only by name and character; he was called Esquire Knowls, of Grays, by Henley, and reputed a man of better morals than the other.
I was brought into the hall, and kept there; and as Quakers were not so common then as they now are (and indeed even yet, the more is the pity, they are not common in that part of the country), I was made a spectacle and gazing-stock to the family, and by divers I was diversely set upon. Some spake to me courteously, with appearance of compassion; others ruggedly, with evident tokens of wrath and scorn. But though I gave them the hearing of what they said, which I could not well avoid, yet I said little to them; but keeping my mind as well retired as I could, I breathed to the Lord for help and strength from Him, to bear me up and carry me through this trial, that I might not sink under it, or be prevailed on by any means, fair or foul, to do anything that might dishonour or displease my God.
At length came forth the justices themselves (for so they were, as well as lieutenants), and after they had saluted me, they discoursed with me pretty familiarly; and though Clark would sometimes be a little jocular and waggish (which was somewhat natural to him), yet Knowls treated me very civilly, not seeming to take any offence at my not standing bare before him.
And when a young priest, who as I understood was chaplain in the family, took upon him pragmatically to reprove me for standing with my hat on before the magistrates, and snatched my hat from off my head, Knowls, in a pleasant manner, corrected him, telling him that he mistook himself in taking a cap for a hat (for mine was a montero-cap), and bade him give it me again; which he (though unwillingly) doing, I forthwith put it on my head again, and thenceforward none meddled with me about it.
Then they began to examine me, putting divers questions to me relating to the present disturbances in the nation, occasioned by the late foolish insurrection of those frantic fifth-monarchy men. To all which I readily answered, according to the simplicity of my heart and innocency of my hands, for I had neither done nor thought any evil against the government.
But they endeavoured to affright me with threats of danger, telling me (with inuendoes) that for all my pretence of innocency there was high matter against me, which, if I would stand out, would be brought forth, and that under my own hand. I knew not what they meant by this; but I knew my innocency, and kept to it.
At length, when they saw I regarded not their threats in general, they asked me if I knew one Thomas Loe, and had written of late to him. I then remembered my letter, which till then I had not thought of, and thereupon frankly told them that I did both know Thomas Loe and had lately written to him; but that as I knew I had written no hurt, so I did not fear any danger from that letter. They shook their heads, and said, "It was dangerous to write letters to appoint meetings in such troublesome times."
They added, that by appointing a meeting, and endeavouring to gather a concourse of people together, in such a juncture especially as this was, I had rendered myself a dangerous person. And therefore they could do no less than tender me the oaths of allegiance and supremacy, which therefore they required me to take.
I told them if I could take any oath at all, I would take the oath of allegiance, for I owed allegiance to the King; but I durst not take any oath, because my Lord and Master Jesus Christ had commanded me not to swear at all; and if I brake His command I should thereby both dishonour and displease Him.
Hereupon they undertook to reason with me, and used many words to persuade me that that command of Christ related only to common and profane swearing, not to swearing before a magistrate. I heard them, and saw the weakness of their arguing, but did not return them any answer; for I found my present business was not to dispute, but to suffer; and that it was not safe for me, in this my weak and childish state especially, to enter into reasonings with sharp, quick, witty, and learned men, lest I might thereby hurt both the cause of truth, which I was to bear witness to, and myself; therefore I chose rather to be a fool, and let them triumph over me, than by my weakness give them advantage to triumph over the truth. And my spirit being closely exercised in a deep travail towards the Lord, I earnestly begged of Him that He would be pleased to keep me faithful to the testimony He had committed to me, and not suffer me to be taken in any of the snares which the enemy laid for me. And, blessed be His holy name, He heard my cries, and preserved me out of them.
When the justices saw they could not bow me to their wills, they told me they must send me to prison. I told them I was contented to suffer whatsoever the Lord should suffer them to inflict upon me. Whereupon they withdrew into the parlour, to consult together what to do with me, leaving me meanwhile to be gazed on in the hall.
After a pretty long stay they came forth to me again with a great show of kindness, telling me they were very unwilling to send me to gaol, but would be as favourable to me as possibly they could, and that if I would take the oaths, they would pass by all the other matter which they had against me. I told them I knew they could not justly have anything against me, for I had neither done nor intended anything against the government, or against them. And as to the oaths, I assured them that my refusing them was merely matter of conscience to me, and that I durst not take any oath whatsoever, if it were to save my life.
When they heard this they left me again, and went and signed a mittimus to send me to prison at Oxford, and charged one of the troopers that brought me thither, who was one of the newly-raised militia troop, to convey me safe to Oxford. But before we departed they called the trooper aside, and gave him private instructions what he should do with me, which I knew nothing of till I came thither, but expected I should go directly to the castle.
It was almost dark when we took horse, and we had about nine or ten miles to ride, the weather thick and cold (for it was about the beginning of the twelfth month), and I had no boots, being snatched away from home on a sudden, which made me not care to ride very fast. And my guard, who was a tradesman in Thame, having confidence in me that I would not give him the slip, jogged on without heeding how I followed him.
When I was gone about a mile on the way I overtook my father's man, who, without my knowledge, had followed me at a distance to Weston, and waited there abroad in the stables till he understood by some of the servants that I was to go to Oxford; and then ran before, resolving not to leave me till he saw what they would do with me.
I would have had him return home, but he desired me not to send him back, but let him run on until I came to Oxford. I considered that it was a token of the fellow's affectionate kindness to me, and that possibly I might send my horse home by him; and thereupon stopping my horse I bid him, if he would go on, get up behind me. He modestly refused, telling me he could run as fast as I rode. But when I told him if he would not ride he should not go forward, he, rather than leave me, leaped up behind me, and on we went.
But he was not willing I should have gone at all. He had a great cudgel in his hand, and a strong arm to use it; and being a stout fellow, he had a great mind to fight the trooper, and rescue me. Wherefore he desired me to turn my horse and ride off, and if the trooper offered to pursue, leave him to deal with him.
I checked him sharply for that, and charged him to be quiet, and not think hardly of the poor trooper, who could do no other nor less than he did; and who, though he had an ill journey in going with me, carried himself civilly to me. I told him also that I had no need to fly, for I had done nothing that would bring guilt or fear upon me, neither did I go with an ill-will; and this quieted the man. So on we went, but were so far cast behind the trooper, that we had lost both sight and hearing of him, and I was fain to mend my pace to get up to him again.
We came pretty late into Oxford on the seventh day of the week, which was the market day; and, contrary to my expectation (which was to have been carried to the castle), my trooper stopped in the High Street, and calling at a shop asked for the master of the house, who coming to the door, he delivered to him the mittimus, and with it a letter from the deputy-lieutenants (or one of them), which when he had read he asked where the prisoner was. Whereupon the soldier pointing to me, he desired me to alight and come in, which when I did he received me civilly.
The trooper, being discharged of his prisoner, marched back, and my father's man, seeing me settled in better quarters than he expected, mounted my horse and went off with him.
I did not presently understand the quality of my keeper, but I found him a genteel courteous man, by trade a linen-draper; and, as I afterwards understood, he was City Marshal, had a command in the county troop, and was a person of good repute in the place; his name was—Galloway.
Whether I was committed to him out of regard to my father, that I might not be thrust into a common gaol, or out of a politic design to keep me from the conversation of my friends, in hopes that I might be drawn to abandon this profession, which I had but lately taken up, I do not know. But this I know, that though I wanted no civil treatment nor kind accommodations where I was, yet after once I understood that many Friends were prisoners in the castle, and amongst the rest Thomas Loe, I had much rather have been among them there, with all the inconveniences they underwent, than where I was with the best entertainment. But this was my present lot, and therefore with this I endeavoured to be content.
It was quickly known in the city that a Quaker was brought in prisoner, and committed to the Marshal. Whereupon (the men Friends being generally prisoners already in the castle) some of the women Friends came to me to inquire after me, and to visit me; as Silas Norton's wife, and Thomas Loe's wife, who were sisters, and another woman Friend, who lived in the same street where I was, whose husband was not a Quaker, but kindly affected towards them, a baker by trade, and his name, as I remember,—Ryland.
By some of these an account was soon given to the Friends who were prisoners in the castle of my being taken up and brought prisoner to the Marshal's; whereupon it pleased the Lord to move on the heart of my dear friend Thomas Loe to salute me with a tender and affectionate letter in the following terms:
"MY BELOVED FRIEND,
"In the truth and love of the Lord Jesus, by which life and salvation is revealed in the saints, is my dear love unto thee, and in much tenderness do I salute thee. And, dear heart, a time of trial God hath permitted to come upon us, to try our faith and love to Him; and this will work for the good of them that through patience endure to the end. And I believe God will be glorified through our sufferings, and His name will be exalted in the patience and long-suffering of His chosen. When I heard that thou wast called into this trial, with the servants of the Most High, to give thy testimony to the truth of what we have believed, it came into my heart to write unto thee, and to greet thee with the embraces of the power of an endless life, where our faith stands, and unity is felt with the saints for ever. Well, my dear friend, let us live in the pure counsel of the Lord, and dwell in His strength, which gives us power and sufficiency to endure all things for His name's sake; and then our crown and reward will be with the Lord for ever, and the blessings of His heavenly kingdom will be our portion. Oh, dear heart, let us give up all freely into the will of God, that God may be glorified by us, and we comforted together in the Lord Jesus; which is the desire of my soul, who am thy dear and loving friend in the eternal truth,
"We are more than forty here, who suffer innocently for the testimony of a good conscience, because we cannot swear, and break Christ's commands; and we are all well, and the blessing and presence of God is with us. Friends here salute thee. Farewell! The power and the wisdom of the Lord God be with thee. Amen."
Greatly was my spirit refreshed and my heart gladdened, at the reading of this consoling letter from my friend; and my soul blessed the Lord for His love and tender goodness to me in moving His servant to write thus unto me.
But I had cause soon after to double and redouble my thankful acknowledgment to the Lord my God, who put it into the heart of my dear friend Isaac Penington also to visit me with some encouraging lines from Aylesbury Gaol, where he was then a prisoner; and from whence (having heard that I was carried prisoner to Oxford) he thus saluted me:-
"Great hath been the Lord's goodness to thee in calling thee out of that path of vanity and death wherein thou wast running towards destruction; to give thee a living name, and an inheritance of life among His people; which certainly will be the end of thy faith in Him and obedience to Him. And let it not be a light thing in thine eyes that He now accounteth thee worthy to suffer among His choice lambs, that He might make thy crown weightier and thy inheritance the fuller. Oh that that eye and heart may be kept open in thee which knoweth the value of these things, and that thou mayst be kept close to the feelings of the life, that thou mayst be fresh in thy spirit in the midst of thy sufferings, and mayst reap the benefit of them; finding that pared off thereby which hindereth the bubblings of the everlasting springs, and maketh unfit for the breaking forth and enjoyment of the pure power! This is the brief salutation of my dear love to thee, which desireth thy strength and settlement in the power, and the utter weakening of thee as to self. My dear love is to thee, with dear Thomas Goodyare and the rest of imprisoned Friends.
"I remain thine in the truth, to which the Lord my God preserve thee single and faithful.
"From Aylesbury Gaol, the 14th of the 12th month, 1660."
Though these epistolary visits in the love of God were very comfortable and confirming to me, and my heart was thankful to the Lord for them, yet I longed after personal conversation with Friends, and it was hard, I thought, that there should be so many faithful servants of God so near me, yet I should not be permitted to come at them, to enjoy their company, and reap both the pleasure and benefit of their sweet society.
For although my Marshal-keeper was very kind to me, and allowed me the liberty of his house, yet he was not willing I should be seen abroad; the rather, perhaps, because he understood I had been pretty well known in that city. Yet once the friendly baker got him to let me step over to his house, and once (and but once) I prevailed with him to let me visit my friends in the castle; but it was with these conditions, that I should not go forth till it was dark, that I would muffle myself up in my cloak, and that I would not stay out late: all which I punctually observed.
When I came thither, though there were many Friends prisoners, I scarce knew one of them by face, except Thomas Loe, whom I had once seen at Isaac Penington's; nor did any of them know me, though they had generally heard that such a young man as I was convinced of the truth, and come among Friends.
Our salutation to each other was very grave and solemn, nor did we entertain one another with much talk, or with common discourses; but most of the little time I had with them was spent in a silent retiredness of spirit, waiting upon the Lord. Yet before we parted we imparted one to another some of the exercises we had gone through; and they seeming willing to understand the ground and manner of my commitment, I gave them a brief account thereof, letting Thomas Loe more particularly know that I had directed a letter to him, which having fallen into the hand of the Lord Lieutenant, was (so far as I could learn) the immediate cause of my being taken up.
Having stayed with them as long as my limited time would permit (which I thought was but very short), that I might keep touch with my keeper and come home in due time, I took leave of my friends there, and with mutual embraces parting, returned to my (in some sense more easy, but in others less easy) prison, where after this I stayed not long before I was brought back to my father's house.
For after my father was come home, who, as I observed before, was from home when I was taken, he applied himself to those justices that had committed me, and not having disobliged them when he was in office, easily obtained to have me sent home, which between him and them was thus contrived.
There was about this time a general muster and training of the militia forces at Oxford, whither on that occasion came the Lord Lieutenant and deputy-lieutenants of the county, of which number they who committed me were two.
When they had been awhile together, and the Marshal with them, he stepped suddenly in, and in haste told me I must get ready quickly to go out of town, and that a soldier would come by and bye to go with me. This said, he hastened to them again, not giving me any intimation how I was to go, or whither.
I needed not much time to get ready in; but I was uneasy in thinking what the Friends of the town would think of this my sudden and private removal; and I feared lest any report should be raised that I had purchased my liberty by an unfaithful compliance. Wherefore I was in care how to speak with some Friends about it; and that friendly baker, whose wife was a Friend, living on the other side of the street at a little distance, I went out at a back door, intending to step over the way to their house, and return immediately.
It so fell out that some of the lieutenants (of whom Esquire Clark, who committed me, was one) were standing in the balcony at a great inn or tavern, just over the place where I was to go by; and he spying me, called out to the soldiers, who stood thick in the street, to stop me. They being generally gentlemen's servants, and many of them knowing me, did civilly forbear to lay hold on me, but calling modestly after me, said, "Stay, sir, stay; pray come back." I heard, but was not willing to hear, therefore rather mended my pace, that I might have got within the door. But he calling earnestly after me, and charging them to stop me, some of them were fain to run, and laying hold on me before I could open the door, brought me back to my place again.
Being thus disappointed, I took a pen and ink, and wrote a few lines, which I sealed up, and gave to the apprentice in the shop, who had carried himself handsomely towards me, and desired him to deliver it to that Friend who was their neighbour, which he promised to do.
By the time I had done this came the soldier that was appointed to conduct me out of town. I knew the man, for he lived within a mile of me, being, through poverty, reduced to keep an alehouse; but he had lived in better fashion, having kept an inn at Thame, and by that means knew how to behave himself civilly, and did so to me.
He told me he was ordered to wait on me to Wheatley, and to tarry there at such an inn, until Esquire Clark came thither, who would then take me home with him in his coach. Accordingly to Wheatley we walked (which is from Oxford some four or five miles), and long we had not been there before Clark and a great company of men came in.
He alighted, and stayed awhile to eat and drink (though he came but from Oxford), and invited me to eat with him; but I, though I had need enough, refused it; for indeed their conversation was a burthen to my life, and made me often think of and pity good Lot.
He seemed, at that time, to be in a sort of mixed temper, between pleasantness and sourness. He would sometimes joke (which was natural to him), and cast out a jesting flirt at me; but he would rail maliciously against the Quakers. "If" said he to me, "the King would authorise me to do it, I would not leave a Quaker alive in England, except you. I would make no more," added he, "to set my pistol to their ears and shoot them through the head, than I would to kill a dog." I told him I was sorry he had so ill an opinion of the Quakers, but I was glad he had no cause for it, and I hoped he would be of a better mind.
I had in my hand a little walking-stick with a head on it, which he commended, and took out of my hand to look at it; but I saw his intention was to search it, whether it had a tuck in it, for he tried to have drawn the head; but when he found it was fast he returned it to me.
He told me I should ride with him to his house in his coach, which was nothing pleasant to me; for I had rather have gone on foot (as bad as the ways were), that I might have been out of his company. Wherefore I took no notice of any kindness in the offer, but only answered I was at his disposal, not mine own.
But when we were ready to go the Marshal came to me, and told me if I pleased I should ride his horse, and he would go in the coach with Mr. Clark. I was glad of the offer, and only told him he should take out his pistols then, for I would not ride with them. He took them out, and laid them in the coach by him, and away we went.
It was a very fine beast that I was set on, by much the best in the company. But though she was very tall, yet the ways being very foul, I found it needful, as soon as I was out of town, to alight and take up the stirrups. Meanwhile, they driving hard on, I was so far behind, that being at length missed by the company, a soldier was sent back to look after me.
As soon as I had fitted my stirrups and was remounted I gave the rein to my mare, which being courageous and nimble, and impatient of delay, made great speed to recover the company; and in a narrow passage the soldier, who was my barber, that had fetched me from home, and I met upon so brisk a gallop that we had enough to do on either side to pull up our horses and avoid a brush.
When we were come to Weston, where Esquire Clark lived, he took the Marshal and some others with him into the parlour; but I was left in the hall, to be exposed a second time for the family to gaze on.
At length himself came out to me, leading in his hand a beloved daughter of his, a young woman of about eighteen years of age, who wanted nothing to have made her comely but gravity. An airy piece she was, and very merry she made herself at me. And when they had made themselves as much sport with me as they would, the Marshal took his leave of them, and mounting me on a horse of Clark's had me home to my father's that night.
Next morning, before the Marshal went away, my father and he consulted together how to entangle me. I felt there were snares laid, but I did not know in what manner or to what end till the Marshal was ready to go. And then, coming where I was to take his leave of me, he desired me to take notice, that although he had brought me home to my father's house again, yet I was not discharged from my imprisonment, but was his prisoner still; and that he had committed me to the care of my father, to see me forthcoming whenever I should be called for. And therefore he expected I should in all things observe my father's orders, and not go out at any time from the house without his leave.
Now I plainly saw the snare, and to what end it was laid; and I asked him if this device was not contrived to keep me from going to meetings; he said I must not go to meetings. Whereupon I desired him to take notice that I would not own myself a prisoner to any man while I continued here; that if he had power to detain me prisoner, he might take me back again with him if he would, and I should not refuse to go with him. But I bade him assure himself, that while I was at home I would take my liberty both to go to meetings and to visit Friends. He smiled, and said if I would be resolute he could not help it; and so took his leave of me.
By this I perceived that the plot was of my father's laying, to have brought me under such an engagement as should have tied me from going to meetings; and thereupon I expected I should have a new exercise from my father.
It was the constant manner of my father to have all the keys of the out-doors of his house (which were four, and those linked upon a chain) brought up into his chamber every night, and fetched out from thence in the morning; so that none could come in or go out in the night without his knowledge.
I knowing this, suspected that if I got not out before my father came down I should be stopped from going out at all that day. Wherefore (the passage from my chamber lying by his chamber door) I went down softly without my shoes, and as soon as the maid had opened the door I went out (though too early), and walked towards the meeting at Meadle, four long miles off.
I expected to have been talked with about it when I came home, but heard nothing of it, my father resolving to watch me better next time.
This I was aware of; and therefore on the next first day I got up early, went down softly, and hid myself in a back room before the maid was stirring.
When she was up she went into my father's chamber for the keys; but he bade her leave them till he was up, and he would bring them down himself; which he did, and tarried in the kitchen, through which he expected I would go.
The manner was, that when the common doors were opened the keys were hung upon a pin in the hall. While therefore my father stayed in the kitchen expecting my coming, I, stepping gently out of the room where I was, reached the keys, and opening another door, not often used, slipped out, and so got away.
I thought I had gone off undiscovered; but whether my father saw me through the window, or by what means he knew of my going, I know not; but I had gone but a little way before I saw him coming after me.
The sight of him put me to a stand in my mind whether I should go on or stop. Had it been in any other case than that of going to a meeting I could not in any wise have gone a step farther. But I considered that the intent of my father's endeavouring to stop me was to hinder me from obeying the call of my heavenly Father, and to stop me from going to worship Him in the assembly of His people; upon this I found it my duty to go on, and observing that my father gained ground upon me, I somewhat mended my pace.
This he observing, mended his pace also, and at length ran. Whereupon I ran also, and a fair course we had through a large meadow of his which lay behind his house and out of sight of the town. He was not, I suppose, then above fifty years of age, and being light of body and nimble of foot, he held me to it for a while. But afterwards slacking his pace to take breath, and observing that I had gotten ground of him, he turned back and went home; and, as I afterwards understood, telling my sisters how I had served him, he said, "Nay, if he will take so much pains to go, let him go if he will." And from that time forward he never attempted to stop me, but left me to my liberty, to go when and whither I would; yet kept me at the usual distance, avoiding the sight of me as much as he could, as not able to bear the sight of my hat on, nor willing to contend with me again about it.
Nor was it long after this before I was left not only to myself, but in a manner by myself; for the time appointed for the coronation of the King (which was the 23rd of the second month, called April) drawing on, my father, taking my two sisters with him, went up to London some time before, that they might be there in readiness, and put themselves into a condition to see so great a solemnity, leaving nobody in the house but myself and a couple of servants. And though this was intended only for a visit on that occasion, yet it proved the breaking of the family; for he bestowed both his daughters there in marriage, and took lodgings for himself, so that afterwards they never returned to settle at Crowell.
Being now at liberty, I walked over to Aylesbury, with some other Friends, to visit my dear friend Isaac Penington, who was still a prisoner there. With him I found dear John Whitehead, and between sixty and seventy more, being well nigh all the men Friends that were then in the county of Bucks; many of them were taken out of their houses by armed men, and sent to prison, as I had been, for refusing to swear. Most of these were thrust into an old room behind the gaol, which had anciently been a malt-house, but was now so decayed that it was scarce fit for a doghouse; and so open it lay, that the prisoners might have gone out at pleasure. But these were purposely put there, in confidence that they would not go out, that there might be room in the prison for others, of other professions and names, whom the gaoler did not trust there.
While this imprisonment lasted, which was for some months, I went afterwards thither sometimes to visit my suffering brethren; and because it was a pretty long way (some eight or nine miles), too far to be walked forward and backward in one day, I sometimes stayed a day or two there, and lay in the malt house among my friends, with whom I delighted to be.
After this imprisonment was over, I went sometimes to Isaac Penington's house at Chalfont, to visit that family, and the Friends thereabouts. There was then a meeting for the most part twice a week in his house; but one first-day in four there was a more general meeting (which was thence called the monthly meeting) to which resorted most of the Friends of other adjacent meetings; and to that I usually went, and sometimes made some stay there.
Here I came acquainted with a friend of London, whose name was Richard Greenaway, by trade a tailor, a very honest man, and one who had received a gift for the ministry.
He having been formerly in other professions of religion, had then been acquainted with one John Ovy, of Watlington, in Oxfordshire, a man of some note among the professors there, and understanding upon inquiry that I knew him, he had some discourse with me about him; the result whereof was, that he, having an intention then shortly to visit some meetings of Friends in this county and the adjoining parts of Oxfordshire and Berkshire, invited me to meet him (upon notice given), and to bear him company in that journey; and in the way bring him to John Ovy's house, with whom I was well acquainted; which I did.
We were kindly received, the man and his wife being very glad to see both their old friend Richard Greenaway and me also, whom they had been very well acquainted with formerly, but had never seen me since I was a Quaker.
Here we tarried that night, and in the evening had a little meeting there with some few of John Ovy's people, amongst whom Richard Greenaway declared the truth; which they attentively heard, and did not oppose, which at that time of day we reckoned was pretty well, for many were apt to cavil.
This visit gave John Ovy an opportunity to inquire of me after Isaac Penington, whose writings (those which he had written before he came among Friends) he had read, and had a great esteem of, and he expressed a desire to see him, that he might have some discourse with him, if he knew how. Whereupon I told him that if he would take the pains to go to his house I would bear him company thither, introduce him, and engage he should have a kind reception.
This pleased him much; and he embracing the offer, I undertook to give him notice of a suitable time, which after I had gone this little journey with my friend Richard Greenaway and was returned, I did, making choice of the monthly meeting to go to.
We met by appointment at Stoken Church, with our staves in our hands, like a couple of pilgrims, intending to walk on foot; and having taken some refreshment and rest at Wycombe, went on cheerfully in the afternoon, entertaining each other with grave and religious discourse, which made the walk the easier, and so reached thither in good time, on the seventh day of the week.
I gave my friends an account who this person was whom I had brought to visit them, and the ground of his visit. He had been a professor of religion from his childhood to his old age (for he was now both grey-headed and elderly), and was a teacher at this time, and had long been so amongst a people, whether Independents or Baptists I do not well remember. And so well thought of he was, for his zeal and honesty, that in those late professing times he was thrust into the Commission of the Peace, and thereby lifted up on the Bench; which neither became him nor he it, for he wanted indeed most of the qualifications requisite for a Justice of the Peace: an estate to defray the charge of the office and to bear him up in a course of living above contempt; a competent knowledge in the laws, and a presence of mind or body, or both, to keep offenders in some awe; in all which he was deficient; for he was but a fellmonger by trade, accustomed to ride upon his pack of skins, and had very little estate, as little knowledge of the law, and of but a mean presence and appearance to look on. But as my father, I suppose, was the means of getting him put into the Commission, so he, I know, did what he could to countenance him in it, and help him through it at every turn, till that turn came (at the King's return) which turned them both out together.
My friends received me in affectionate kindness, and my companion with courteous civility. The evening was spent in common but grave conversation; for it was not a proper season for private discourse, both as we were somewhat weary with our walk, and there were other companies of Friends come into the family, to be at the meeting next day.
But in the morning I took John Ovy into a private walk, in a pleasant grove near the house, whither Isaac Penington came to us; and there in discourse both answered all his questions, objections, and doubts, and opened to him the principles of truth, to his both admiration and present satisfaction. Which done, we went in to take some refreshment before the meeting began.
Of those Friends who were come overnight in order to be at the meeting, there was Isaac's brother, William Penington, a merchant of London, and with him a Friend (whose name I have forgotten), a grocer of Colchester, in Essex; and there was also our friend George Whitehead, whom I had not, that I remember, seen before.
The nation had been in a ferment ever since that mad action of the frantic fifth-monarchy men, and was not yet settled; but storms, like thunder-showers, flew here and there by coast, so that we could not promise ourselves any safety or quiet in our meetings. And though they had escaped disturbance for some little time before, yet so it fell out that a party of horse were appointed to come and break up the meeting that day, though we knew nothing of it till we heard and saw them.
The meeting was scarce fully gathered when they came; but we that were in the family, and many others, were settled in it in great peace and stillness, when on a sudden the prancing of the horses gave notice that a disturbance was at hand.
We all sat still in our places, except my companion John Ovy, who sat next to me. But he being of a profession that approved Peter's advice to his Lord, "to save himself," soon took the alarm, and with the nimbleness of a stripling, cutting a caper over the form that stood before him, ran quickly out at a private door, which he had before observed, which led through the parlour into the gardens, and from thence into an orchard; where he hid himself in a place so obscure, and withal so convenient for his intelligence by observation of what passed, that no one of the family could scarce have found a likelier.
By the time he was got into his burrow came the soldiers in, being a party of the county troop, commanded by Matthew Archdale of Wycombe. He behaved himself civilly, and said he was commanded to break up the meeting, and carry the men before a justice of the peace; but he said he would not take all; and thereupon began to pick and choose, chiefly as his eye guided him, for I suppose he knew very few.
He took Isaac Penington and his brother, George Whitehead, and the Friend of Colchester, and me, with three or four more of the county, who belonged to that meeting.
He was not fond of the work, and that made him take no more; but he must take some, he said, and bade us provide to go with him before Sir William Boyer of Denham, who was a justice of the peace. Isaac Penington being but weakly, rode, but the rest of us walked thither, it being about four miles.
When we came there the Justice carried himself civilly to us all, courteously to Isaac Penington as being a gentleman of his neighbourhood; and there was nothing charged against us but that we were met together without word or deed. Yet this being contrary to a late proclamation, given forth upon the rising of the fifth- monarchy men, whereby all dissenters' meetings were forbidden, the Justice could do no less than take notice of us.
Wherefore he examined all of us whom he did not personally know, asking our names and the places of our respective habitations. But when he had them, and considered from what distant parts of the nation we came, he was amazed; for George Whitehead was of Westmoreland, in the north of England; the grocer was of Essex; I was of Oxfordshire; and William Penington was of London.
Hereupon he told us that our case looked ill, and he was sorry for it: "for how," said he, "can it be imagined that so many could jump altogether at one time and place, from such remote quarters and parts of the kingdom, if it was not by combination and appointment?"
He was answered that we were so far from coming thither by agreement or appointment, that none of us knew of the others' coming, and for the most of us, we had never seen one another before; and that therefore he might impute it to chance, or, if he pleased, to Providence.
He urged upon us that an insurrection had been lately made by armed men, who pretended to be more religious than others; that that insurrection had been plotted and contrived in their meeting-house, where they assembled under colour of worshipping God; that in their meeting-house they hid their arms, and armed themselves, and out of their meeting-house issued forth in arms, and killed many; so that the government could not be safe unless such meetings were suppressed.
We replied, we hoped he would distinguish and make a difference between the guilty and the innocent, and between those who were principled for fighting and those who were principled against it, which we were, and had been always known to be so; that our meetings were public, our doors standing open to all comers, of all ages, sexes, and persuasions, men, women, and children, and those that were not of our religion, as well as those that were; and that it was next to madness for people to plot in such meetings.
He told us we must find sureties for our good behaviour, and to answer our contempt of the King's proclamation at the next general Quarter Sessions, or else he must commit us.
We told him that, knowing our innocency and that we had not misbehaved ourselves, nor did meet in contempt of the King's authority, but purely in obedience to the Lord's requirings to worship Him, which we held ourselves in duty bound to do, we could not consent to be bound, for that would imply guilt which we were free from.
"Then," said he, "I must commit you;" and ordered his clerk to make a mittimus. And divers mittimuses were made, but none of them would hold; for still, when they came to be read, we found such flaws in them as made him throw them aside, and write more.
He had his eye often upon me, for I was a young man, and had at that time a black suit on. At length he bid me follow him, and went into a private room and shut the door upon me.
I knew not what he meant by this; but I cried in spirit to the Lord, that he would be pleased to be a mouth and wisdom to me, and keep me from being entangled in any snare.
He asked me many questions concerning my birth, my education, my acquaintance in Oxfordshire, particularly what men of note I knew there; to all which I gave him brief but plain and true answers, naming several families of the best rank in that part of the county where I dwelt.
He asked me how long I had been of this way, and how I came to be of it. Which when I had given him some account of, he began to persuade me to leave it, and return to the right way—the Church, as he called it. I desired him to spare his pains in that respect, and forbear any discourse of that kind, for that I was fully satisfied the way I was in was the right way, and hoped the Lord would so preserve me in it that nothing should be able to draw or drive me out of it. He seemed not pleased with that, and thereupon went out to the rest of the company, and I followed him, glad in my heart that I had escaped so well, and praising God for my deliverance.
When he had taken his seat again at the upper end of a fair hall, he told us he was not willing to take the utmost rigour of the law against us, but would be as favourable to us as he could. And therefore he would discharge, he said, Mr. Penington himself, because he was but at home in his own house. And he would discharge Mr. Penington of London, because he came but as a relation to visit his brother. And he would discharge the grocer of Colchester, because he came to bear Mr. Penington of London company, and to be acquainted with Mr. Isaac Penington, whom he had never seen before. And as for those others of us who were of this county, he would discharge them, for the present at least, because they being his neighbours, he could send for them when he would. "But as for you," said he to George Whitehead and me, "I can see no business you had there, and therefore I intend to hold you to it, either to give bail or go to gaol."
We told him we could not give bail. "Then," said he, "you must go to gaol;" and thereupon he began to write our mittimus; which puzzled him again; for he had discharged so many, that he was at a loss what to lay as the ground of our commitment, whose case differed nothing in reality from theirs whom he had discharged.
At length, having made divers draughts (which still George Whitehead showed him the defects of), he seemed to be weary of us; and rising up said unto us: "I consider that it is grown late in the day, so that the officer cannot carry you to Aylesbury to-night, and I suppose you will be willing to go back with Mr. Penington; therefore if you will promise to be forthcoming at his house to-morrow morning, I will dismiss you for the present, and you shall hear from me again to-morrow."
We told him we did intend, if he did not otherwise dispose of us, to spend that night with our friend Isaac Penington, and would, if the Lord gave us leave, be there in the morning, ready to answer his requirings. Whereupon he dismissed us all, willing, as we thought, to be rid of us; for he seemed not to be of an ill temper, nor desirous to put us to trouble, if he could help it.
Back then we went to Isaac Penington's. But when we were come thither, oh the work we had with poor John Ovy! He was so dejected in mind, so covered with shame and confusion of face for his cowardliness, that we had enough to do to pacify him towards himself.
The place he had found out to shelter himself in was so commodiously contrived, that undiscovered he could discern when the soldiers went off with us, and understand when the bustle was over and the coast clear. Whereupon he adventured to peep out of his hole, and in a while drew near by degrees to the house again; and finding all things quiet and still, he adventured to step within the doors, and found the Friends who were left behind peaceably settled in the meeting again.
The sight of this smote him, and made him sit down among them. And after the meeting was ended, and the Friends departed to their several homes, addressing himself to Mary Penington, as the mistress of the house, he could not enough magnify the bravery and courage of the Friends, nor sufficiently debase himself. He told her how long he had been a professor, what pains he had taken, what hazards he had run, in his youthful days, to get to meetings; how, when the ways were forelaid and passages stopped, he swam through rivers to reach a meeting; and now, said he, that I am grown old in the profession of religion, and have long been an instructor and encourager of others, that I should thus shamefully fall short myself, is matter of shame and sorrow to me.
Thus he bewailed himself to her. And when we came back he renewed his complaints of himself to us, with high aggravations of his own cowardice; which gave occasion to some of the Friends tenderly to represent to him the difference between profession and possession, form and power.
He was glad, he said, on our behalfs, that we came off so well, and escaped imprisonment.
But when he understood that George Whitehead and I were liable to an after-reckoning next morning, he was troubled, and wished the morning was come and gone, that we might be gone with it.
We spent the evening in grave conversation and in religious discourses, attributing the deliverance we hitherto had to the Lord. And the next morning, when we were up and had eaten, we tarried some time to see what the Justice would do further with us, and to discharge our engagement to him; the rest of the Friends, who were before fully discharged, tarrying also with us to see the event.
And when we had stayed so long that on all hands it was concluded we might safely go, George Whitehead and I left a few words in writing to be sent to the Justice if he sent after us, importing that we had tarried till such an hour, and not hearing from him, did now hold ourselves free to depart, yet so as that if he should have occasion to send for us again, upon notice thereof we would return.
This done, we took our leave of the family and one of another; they who were for London taking horse, and I and my companions, setting forth on foot for Oxfordshire, went to Wycombe, where we made a short stay to rest and refresh ourselves, and from thence reached our respective homes that night.
After I had spent some time at home, where, as I had no restraint, so (my sisters being gone) I had now no society, I walked up to Chalfont again, and spent a few days with my friends there.
As soon as I came in I was told that my father had been there that day to see Isaac Penington and his wife, but they being abroad at a meeting, he returned to his inn in the town, where he intended to lodge that night. After supper Mary Penington told me she had a mind to go and see him at his inn (the woman of the house being a friend of ours), and I went with her. He seemed somewhat surprised to see me there, because he thought I had been at home at his house; but he took no notice of my hat—at least showed no offence at it, for, as I afterwards understood, he had now an intention to sell his estate, and thought he should need my concurrence therein, which made him now hold it necessary to admit me again into some degree of favour. After we had tarried some little time with him, she rising up to be gone, he waited on her home, and having spent about an hour with us in the family, I waited on him back to his inn. On the way he invited me to come up to London to see my sisters, the younger of whom was then newly married, and directed me where to find them, and also gave me money to defray my charges.
Accordingly I went; yet stayed not long there, but returned to my friend Isaac Penington's, where I made a little stay, and from thence went back to Crowell.
When I was ready to set forth, my friend Isaac Penington was so kind to send a servant with a brace of geldings to carry me as far as I thought fit to ride, and to bring the horses back. I, intending to go no farther that day than to Wycombe, rode no farther than to Beaconsfield town's end, having then but five miles to walk. But here a new exercise befell me, the manner of which was thus:
Before I had walked to the middle of the town I was stopped and taken up by the watch. I asked the watchman what authority he had to stop me, travelling peacefully on the highway: he told me he would show me his authority, and in order thereunto, had me into a house hard by, where dwelt a scrivener whose name was Pepys. To him he gave the order which he had received from the constables, which directed him to take up all rogues, vagabonds, and sturdy beggars. I asked him for which of these he stopped me, but he could not answer me.
I thereupon informed him what a rogue in law is, viz., one who for some notorious offence was burnt on the shoulder; and I told them they might search me if they pleased, and see if I was so branded. A vagabond, I told them, was one that had no dwelling-house nor certain place of abode; but I had, and was going to it, and I told them where it was. And for a beggar, I bade them bring any one that could say I had begged or asked relief.
This stopped the fellow's mouth, yet he would not let me go; but, being both weak-headed and strong-willed, he left me there with the scrivener, and went out to seek the constable, and having found him, brought him thither. He was a young man, by trade a tanner, somewhat better mannered than his wardsman, but not of much better judgment.
He took me with him to his house, and having settled me there, went out to take advice, as I supposed, what to do with me; leaving nobody in the house to guard me but his wife, who had a young child in her arms.
She inquired of me upon what account I was taken up, and seeming to have some pity for me, endeavoured to persuade me not to stay, but to go my way, offering to show me a back way from their house which would bring me into the road again beyond the town, so that none of the town should see me or know what was become of me. But I told her I could not do so.
Then having sat awhile in a muse, she asked me if there was not a place of Scripture which said Peter was at a tanner's house. I told her there was such a Scripture, and directed her where to find it.
After some time she laid her child to sleep in the cradle, and stepped out on a sudden, but came not in again for a pretty while.
I was uneasy that I was left alone in the house, fearing lest if anything should be missing I might be suspected to have taken it; yet I durst not go out to stand in the street, lest it should be thought I intended to slip away.
But besides that, I soon found work to employ myself in; for the child quickly waking, fell to crying, and I was fain to rock the cradle in my own defence, that I might not be annoyed with a noise, to me not more unpleasant than unusual. At length the woman came in again, and finding me nursing the child, gave me many thanks, and seemed well pleased with my company.
When night came on, the constable himself came in again, and told me some of the chief of the town were met together to consider what was fit to do with me, and that I must go with him to them. I went, and he brought me to a little nasty hut, which they called a town-house (adjoining to their market-house), in which dwelt a poor old woman whom they called Mother Grime, where also the watch used by turns to come in and warm themselves in the night.
When I came in among them they looked, some of them, somewhat sourly on me, and asked me some impertinent questions, to which I gave them suitable answers.
Then they consulted one with another how they should dispose of me that night, till they could have me before some justice of peace to be examined. Some proposed that I should be had to some inn, or other public-house, and a guard set on me there. He that started this was probably an innkeeper, and consulted his own interest. Others objected against this, that it would bring a charge on the town, to avoid which they were for having the watch take charge of me, and keep me walking about the streets with them till morning. Most voices seemed to go this way, till a third wished them to consider whether they could answer the doing of that, and the law would bear them out in it: and this put them to a stand. I heard all their debates, but let them alone, and kept my mind to the Lord.
While they thus bandied the matter to and fro, one of the company asked the rest if any of them knew who this young man was, and whither he was going; whereupon the constable to whom I had given both my name and the name of the town where I dwelt, told them my name was Ellwood, and that I lived at a town called Crowell, in Oxfordshire.
Old Mother Grime, sitting by and hearing this, clapped her hand on her knee, and cried out: "I know Mr. Ellwood of Crowell very well; for when I was a maid I lived with his grandfather there when he was a young man." And thereupon she gave them such an account of my father as made them look more regardfully on me; and so Mother Grime's testimony turned the scale, and took me off from walking the rounds with the watch that night.
The constable hereupon bade them take no further care, I should lie at his house that night; and accordingly took me home with him, where I had as good accommodation as the house did afford. Before I went to bed he told me that there was to be a visitation, or Spiritual Court, as he called it, holden next day at Amersham, about four miles from Beaconsfield, and that I was to be carried thither.
This was a new thing to me, and it brought a fresh exercise upon my mind. But being given up in the will of God to suffer what he should permit to be laid on me, I endeavoured to keep my mind quiet and still.
In the morning, as soon as I was up, my spirit was exercised towards the Lord in strong cries to him, that he would stand by me and preserve me, and not suffer me to be taken in the snare of the wicked. While I was thus crying to the Lord the other constable came, and I was called down.
This was a budge fellow, and talked high. He was a shoemaker by trade, and his name was Clark. He threatened me with the Spiritual Court. But when he saw I did not regard it, he stopped, and left the matter to his partner, who pretended more kindness for me, and therefore went about to persuade Clark to let me go out at the back- door, so slip away.
The plot, I suppose, was so laid that Clark should seem averse, but at length yield, which he did, but would have me take it for a favour. But I was so far from taking it so, that I would not take it at all, but told them plainly, that as I came in at the fore- door, so I would go out at the fore-door. When therefore they saw they could not bow me to their will, they brought me out at the fore-door into the street, and wished me a good journey. Yet before I went, calling for the woman of the house, I paid her for my supper and lodging, for I had now got a little money in my pocket again.
After this I got home, as I thought, very well, but I had not been long at home before an illness seized on me, which proved to be the small-pox; of which, so soon as Friends had notice, I had a nurse sent me, and in a while Isaac Penington and his wife's daughter, Gulielma Maria Springett, to whom I had been play-fellow in our infancy, came to visit me, bringing with them our dear friend Edward Burrough, by whose ministry I was called to the knowledge of the truth.
It pleased the Lord to deal favourably with me in this illness, both inwardly and outwardly; for His supporting presence was with me, which kept my spirit near unto Him; and though the distemper was strong upon me, yet I was preserved through it, and my countenance was not much altered by it. But after I was got up again, and while I kept my chamber, wanting some employment for entertainment's sake to spend the time with, and there being at hand a pretty good library of books, amongst which were the works of Augustine and others of those ancient writers who were by many called the fathers, I betook myself to reading. And these books being printed in the old black letter, with abbreviations of the words difficult to be read, I spent too much time therein, and thereby much impaired my sight, which was not strong before, and was now weaker than usual by reason of the illness I had so newly had, which proved an injury to me afterwards, for which reason I here mention it.
After I was well enough to go abroad with respect to my own health and the safety of others, I went up, in the beginning of the twelfth month, 1661, to my friend Isaac Penington's at Chalfont, and abode there some time, for the airing myself more fully, that I might be more fit for conversation.
I mentioned before, that when I was a boy I had made some good progress in learning, and lost it all again before I came to be a man; nor was I rightly sensible of my loss therein until I came amongst the Quakers. But then I both saw my loss and lamented it; and applied myself with utmost diligence, at all leisure times, to recover it; so false I found that charge to be which in those times was cast as a reproach upon the Quakers, that they despised and decried all human learning, because they denied it to be essentially necessary to a gospel ministry, which was one of the controversies of those times.
But though I toiled hard and spared no pains to regain what once I had been master of, yet I found it a matter of so great difficulty that I was ready to say as the noble eunuch to Philip in another case, "How can I, unless I had some man to guide me?"
This I had formerly complained of to my especial friend Isaac Penington, but now more earnestly, which put him upon considering and contriving a means for my assistance.
He had an intimate acquaintance with Dr. Paget, a physician of note in London, and he, with John Milton, a gentleman of great note for learning throughout the learned world, for the accurate pieces he had written on various subjects and occasions.
This person, having filled a public station in the former times, lived now a private and retired life in London, and having wholly lost his sight, kept always a man to read to him, which usually was the son of some gentleman of his acquaintance, whom in kindness he took to improve in his learning.
Thus, by the mediation of my friend Isaac Penington with Dr. Paget, and of Dr. Paget with John Milton, was I admitted to come to him, not as a servant to him (which at that time he needed not), nor to be in the house with him, but only to have the liberty of coming to his house at certain hours when I would, and to read to him what books he should appoint me, which was all the favour I desired.
But this being a matter which would require some time to bring about, I in the meanwhile returned to my father's house in Oxfordshire.
I had before received direction by letters from my eldest sister (written by my father's command) to put off what cattle he had left about his house, and to discharge his servants; which I had done at the time called Michaelmas before. So that all that winter, when I was at home, I lived like a hermit, all alone, having a pretty large house, and nobody in it but myself, at nights especially; but an elderly woman, whose father had been an old servant to the family, came every morning and made my bed, and did what else I had occasion for her to do, till I fell ill of the small-pox, and then I had her with me and the nurse. But now, understanding by letter from my sister that my father did not intend to return to settle there, I made off those provisions which were in the house, that they might not be spoiled when I was gone; and because they were what I should have spent if I had tarried there, I took the money made of them to myself for my support at London, if the project succeeded for my going thither.
This done, I committed the care of the house to a tenant of my father's who lived in the town, and taking my leave of Crowell, went up to my sure friend Isaac Penington again; where understanding that the mediation used for my admittance to John Milton had succeeded so well that I might come when I would, I hastened to London, and in the first place went to wait upon him.
He received me courteously, as well for the sake of Dr. Paget, who introduced me, as of Isaac Penington, who recommended me; to both whom he bore a good respect. And having inquired divers things of me with respect to my former progression in learning, he dismissed me, to provide myself with such accommodation as might be most suitable to my future studies.