« AnteriorContinuar »
done amiss in forsaking his relations. Eventually his scruples were overcome, and, he ventured into the great city..
Here, however, he met with little satisfaction. “ I looked,” says he,“ on the great professors, and saw all was dark, and under the chain of darkness.”—“Some tender people would have had me staid, but. I was fearful, and returned homeward into Leicestershire, having a regard upon my mind to my parents and relations, lest I should grieve them ; who, I understood, were troubled at my absence.” At home he continued not long; and, indeed, for many years after, it is questionable whether he was most unsettled in mind or body. Whateyer extravagancies Fox may have committed, it is just towards him to acknowledge thus early, that he was, from the first, a sincere seeker of truth, and, afterwards, a firm believer in what he professed and taught. But at this time, and for some years after, he was, with all his sincerity, a downright bedlamite, wandering over the country without a resting place or a home' ; sleeping for weeks together in the open fields; and going for days together without food or nourishment. In his own melancholy record he observes, “ my troubles continued, and I was often under great temptations. I fasted much, walked abroad in solitary places many days, and often took my Bible, and sat in hollow trees and lonesome places until night came on ;, and, frequently, in the night, walked mournfully about by myself: for I was a man of sorrows in the first workings of the Lord in me.” Upon another occasion, he says, “ about this time I was in a fast for about ten days, my spirit being greatly exercised on truth's behalf.” ;
With all his after-confidence, Fox had, early in life, some natural misgivings, and he endeavoured to find help and relief from others. The dreadful state to which he was at times reduced, we may collect from what follows. “ After this, I went to one Macham, a priest, in high account. He would needs give me some physic, and I was to have been let blood; but they could not get one drop of blood from me, either in arms or head, though they endeavoured it, my body being, as it were, dried up with sorrows, griefs, and troubles, which were so great upon me, that I could have wished I had never been born, or that I had been born blind, that I might never have seen wickedness nor vanity; and deaf, that I might never have heard vain and wicked words, or the Lord's name blasphemed.” We should not do justice to Fox without extracting what follows. In all his fearful agonies, and with all his desperate determination to separate himself from human society, some touch of humanity, some gentle sympathy with the sufferings of others, is always discoverable; as in his fears, when in London, lest his parents should be unhappy, and in the following account of his
poor los hords word op
keeping Christmas, when in the very height of his suffering. “ When the time called Christmas came, while others were feasting and sporting themselves, I looked out poor widows from house to house, and gave them some money. When I was invited to marriages I went to none at all, but the next day, or soon after, I would go and visit them, and if they were poor I gave them some money.”
In his seeking for consolation from the “high professors,” Fox records some extraordinary, and some ridiculous adventures. “I heard of one,” he says, “ called Doctor Cradock, of Coventry, and went to him; I asked him the ground of temptation and despair, and how troubles came to be wrought in man? -As we were walking together in his garden, the alley being narrow, I chanced, in turning, to set my foot on the side of a bed ; at which he raged as if his house had been on fire." Again, “I went to another ancient priest, at Mansetter, in Warwickshire, and reasoned with him about the grounds of despair and temptations; but he was ignorant of my condition: he bid me take tobacco, and sing psalms.” Fox simply observes on this, " Tobacco was a thing I did not love, and psalms I was not in a state to sing ; I could not sing.” Nor, indeed, do we remember his ever making the attempt, until some years after, when in prison at Carlisle, where the jailor having, with brutal violence, beaten him, Fox says he was “so filled with joy, that he began to sing." This seems strange to us, and favours the opinion of Hudibras.
be grow, a were and how to asked calledo
This they call Pain,
It follows we can ne'er be sure,
or inflict. By the bye, we may here notice that Fox having once "tuned his voice,” very soon gave proof of extraordinary power; for the jailor thinking to annoy him, fetched a fiddler, but the man no sooner began to play, than Fox “sang a hymn so loud, that with his voice he drowned the sound of the fiddle, and thereby so confounded the player, that he was forced to give over and go his ways.” If this does not remind the reader of the contention between the lute player and the nightingale, in Strada and Ford, it may of the similar despair of a fiddler, though from a different cause, in that most beautiful of ballads, The Lord's Marie, now said to be written by Allan Cunningham.
At this time, and for the remainder of his life, Fox, of course, had dreams, and visions, and heard voices from heaven, and was, on innumerable occasions, specially instructed by the Lord; and as the coming of Jesus was preceded and foretold by John, therefore it was, we presume, that one Brown, says Sewel,“ upon his death-bed spoke, by way of prophecy, many notable things concerning George Fox, and, among the rest, that he should be made instrumental by the Lord to the conversion of the people.” This prophecy seems to have decided the question ; for “when this man was buried,” says Fox," a great work of the Lord fell upon me, to the admiration of many who thought I had been dead; and many came to see me for about fourteen days. I was very much altered in countenance and person, as if my body had been new moulded or changed. While I was in this condition, I had a sense and discerning given me by the Lord.—I saw into that which was without end, things which cannot be uttered, and of the greatness and infiniteness of the love of God, which cannot be expressed by words. For I had been brought through the very ocean of darkness and death, and through and over the power of Satan, by the eternal glorious power of Christ; even through that darkness was I brought which covered over all the world, which chained down all, and shut up all in the death.—Then could I say, I had been in spiritual Babylon, Sodom, Egypt, and the grave; but by the eternal power of God I was come out of it, was brought over it, and the power of it, into the power of Christ.--A report went abroad of me, that I was a young man who had a discerning spirit, whereupon many came from far and near, professors, priests, and people. The Lord's power broke forth, and I had great openings and prophecies, and spoke unto them of the things of God, which they heard with attention and silence, and went away and spread the fame thereof." After the success of this first display, there was no more selfquestioning; he braced up his leather-breeches, and proceeded forthwith to meetings of priests and professors, and expounded texts, much to the satisfaction of the more sober.”
Fox's life had now a determinate purpose, and his mind became, in consequence, somewhat quieted; the fever was 'a little subdued, and his madness had more of method. Away he goes to meetings and steeple-houses; takes to prophecying and performing miracles;- it were better, we think, to have followed the advice of the priest of Mansetter, and taken to psalm-singing, and tobacco ;--and proceeds right onwards, till he had founded a sect, and established his authority over it.-However, this was a work of time and labour. But hereafter , he lives more in the world's eye; his history is less personal ; he avows doctrines, denounces errors, and finds followers; and before we enter into the particulars of his after life, we must give some account of the doctrines he now taught, and the pretensions he set up. And we must here observe that few things are more opposite than the naked startling assertions which Fox sported at this time, and the same opinions as explained by Barclay, Penn, and other sensible men, who eventually took the lead among his followers, and had a natural influence over Fox himself. We may premise, that we hate and abhor all persecution, and we never hesitate to avow it, for any and all religious opinions. Of the cruel sufferings of George Fox there can be no doubt; his broken bones, his bruised and bleeding body, could testify to it a. hundred times; the memory of his persecutors we give up to the just indignation of all who protest against persecution; but we cannot permit the Quakers to triumph over them, as they have been accustomed to do, unless they deny his conduct. George. Fox was not only a persecutor, but had the very soul of an inquisitor. For is it not persecution, we ask, rudely, to interrupt the worship of others—to enter their religious houses-to mock their most reverend ceremonies—to deride their belief—to stigmatize their best endeavours—to insult their ministers—to enter private houses and annoy and revile people, till they fly their own homes to avoid you ?-We will not make Fox responsible for the conduct of his followers, of that we may speak hereafter; but these doings he boasts and triumphs in. Is it no persecution to tell an officer and a gentleman, “he must have a new God, for his God was his belly ?” a magistrate," his heart was rotten, and he was full of hypocrisy to the brim ?” To interrupt a minister in the performance of his religious duty, and begin your ill-timed address, “ Come down, thou deceiver ?” to stigmatize another as a Scribe and Pharisee, that " goest in Cain's way, in envy, an enemy to God;" “ a son of Balaam ?” “a greedy dumb, dog ?” We like, on these occasions, to “ speak by the card,” to give the proofs of what we assert. If what follows be not persecution, what is ?.“ Passing onwards that night,” says Fox, “a papist overtook me, and talked to me of his religion, and of their meetings, and I let him speak all his : mind. That night I stayed at an alehouse. Next morning I was moved to speak the word of the Lord to this papist. So I went to his house, and declared against all their superstitious ways; and told him, that God was come to teach his people himself. This put him into such a rage, that he could not endure to stay in his own house." · But the Quakers, though they claim this extravagant license, which, if it were permitted to any, men had better run wild in the woods than live in such society, are not at all disposed to tolerate it; no, nor to tolerate dissent, unless such dissent as is hy law established and authorised. When the penal laws
to ber extravaganci was to be foress, printed bobse
were repealed, in King William's time, by which laws, some dissenters, and especially the Quakers, had suffered and been persecuted many years-care was taken,” says Sewel, “ to keep that law in force, by which papists were excluded from sitting in Parliament. And those penal laws, of which mention hath been made heretofore, in due place, were now restrained, except the Test Act, properly required for serving in high offices, and to keep out the papists.” ; Again, he observes, in Holland, some, under pretence of plainness, printed books, in which “ not one capital letter was to be found ;" and after this, and some other extravagancies, (no great offences yet proved) “ it is not to be wondered that the magistrates clapped them up in Bedlam.” Is it not, indeed ? Now, we think it no offence at all to print books without capital letters, and that it is to be wondered at, that magistrates should think themselves justified in “ clapping" such printers into Bedlam. So too, in speaking of Muggleton, the founder of a sect that sprang, and almost legitimately, from the Quakers themselves, he observes, “I am loth to transcribe more of these most horrible blasphemies; and we have cause to wonder at the long forbearance of God, that he has thus bore the disdainful affront offered by this inhuman monster, in defiance of his Almightiness. Hereafter I shall have occasion to make mention of this Muggleton, for he lived yet several years; and I don't find that any punishment was inflicted upon him by the magistrates, other than the pillory, and half a year's imprisonment; though many think, not without good reason, that such blasphemers ought to be secluded from conversation with men.” It is really very difficult to satisfy these gentlemen in punishing others, though they wince confoundedly when subjected to it themselves. He does not find that any punishment was inflicted on Muggleton, other than (a trifle hardly worth noticing) the pillory and six months' imprisonment, whereas many (Quakers) and himself, would have all such blasphemers sentenced to solitary imprisonment for life.
Just so others thought in respect to him, they called the blasphemer, George Fox.. We know how Fox tells us, that upon such an occasion, he qualified this or that nonsense, and how wiser heads than his afterwards gave speciousness to it; but if blasphemy be a sufficient apology for persecution, what might not the persecutors of that age have urged, against Fox, who rarely spoke in public, but with some such preface as “ The Lord bath opened to me,”—“I am moved of the Lord,” -“I am sent of the Lord God of heaven and earth ?” Who begins " an exhortation of warning to the magistrates,”-“ All ye powers of the earth, Christ is come to reign, and is among you, and ye know him not ?". In another paper, he informs the “seven parishes at the Land's End,” “Christ is come to teach his