« AnteriorContinuar »
Vol. XI. PART I.
Art. I.- A Journal, or Historical Account of the Life, Travels,
Sufferings, Christian Experience, and Labour of Love, in the work of the Ministry, of that ancient, eminent, and faithful Servant of Jesus Christ, George Fox. Third Edition. London, 1765.
The progress of human opinion, the knowledge of human nature, the weakness to which we may be reduced, and the strength of which we are capable, are the great lessons taught by history to all mankind. Not, indeed, history in its more limited meaning; as the record of events, measured not by the depth of the sources whence they sprang, the permanence of their causes, the universality of the principle, but their magnitude in the world's eye; not history, the manual for warriors, statesmen, legislators, negotiators, and others who ride in triumph on the shoulders of the world, '“ on the neck of crowned Fortune,” to uphold their dignity, and secure their power; but the history of the human mind; the recorded facts that lay bare its powers and its passions, its hopes and its delusions ; where every man may read, and has an interest in the record, and whence every man should rise the wiser and the better. To the great mass of mankind, the history of one single error, one delusion, to which the human mind was long subject, and from which it is now emancipated, and has forgotten, is of more value, than all the battles, intrigues, and negotiations, since courts and courtiers have had being. So it seems to us; but this, perhaps, is one of those very delusions, where
VOL. XI. PART I.
desire beguiles and cheats us into belief; for it is, certainly, an opinion that gives more than the admitted importance to our present labour, which is, to bring before our readers, the life and opinions of as extraordinary a man, as visionary a dreamer, as mad an enthusiast, and as honest a man, as ever played a part in the great human drama.
Of course it needs no preface to inform the reader that George Fox, the writer of this Journal, called by the famous Penn, “ Annals of the man of God,” was, in the language of his followers, “a chosen vessel through whom the eternal, wise, and good God was pleased, in his infinite love, to honour and visit this benighted and bewildered nation, with his chosen day-spring from on high”-or, as the irreverend would say, was founder of the sect of Quakers.
As, with all our love of toleration, we cannot extend the principle so far as to give to nonsense a license and privilege from exposure, we hold it well to premise that nothing we may hereafter say, is meant to apply to the Quakers of the present day. They are a quiet, orderly, peaceable, self-satisfied, browncoated, broad-beavered generation, and have little, except their abstract principles, in commun with the unquiet, disorderly, self-dissatisfied, buckskin-breeched, and buckskin-coated, booted, and spurred founder of their sect. They have, indeed, no more to do with his follies and extravagance, than his virtues and his sufferings. The present generation are as little likely to be found annoying and persecuting other people with their opinions, as they are to be found in jail for resisting tythes, or not resisting the influence of the spirit. The Quakers, indeed, as they had the disadvantage of the world's opinion in the beginning, have the advantage of it now ;-their virtues are all of that worldly character, which the world well knows how to estimate;--they are honest, sober, civil, and industrious, virtues, by which the world and the individual are equally benefited ; and benefit is the very sensible measure by which vorld forms its judgment, and the Quakers too; that "honesty is the best policy,' is a proverb, and the best that can be said of the Quakers, is that they know it; so far from trusting themselves to the direction, or misdirection, of the spirit, they never trust themselves to any one single impulse of their nature; they never diverge, right or left, from the common, beaten, high-way of established usage; they are just such men, “and women too,”. as in the progress of improvement, and the consummation of machinery, will some day or other, we expect, be manufactured by steam engines. They are, in fact, as opposite to the founder of their sect, as the spirit of Quixotism is to that of Quietism. Thus much, by way of preface; now to the immediate subject of this article.
George Fox, the writer of this Journal, was born in 1624, at Drayton in the Clay, in Leicestershire. His father was a weaver ; a circumstance not to be passed over lightly; for the breed is as specially noted in the Calendar of Saints, as in the Calendar at Newmarket; and the weavers were always a righteous generation ;* and Fox himself assures us that in this one “ there was a seed of God." His name was Christopher, but by his familiars, he was called “Righteous Christer.” My mother,” he adds," was an upright woman; her maiden name, Mary Lago, of the family of the Lago's [as most people would have supposed without this special notice; we conclude, therefore, the Lago’s were in the roll of Battle Abbey] and of the stock of the martyrs."
George, in his youth, was a dull, heavy boy, or, as he pleases to phrase it, “had a gravity and stayedness of mind and spirit, not usual in children.” În religious knowledge he was somewhat precocious, for he claims, at eleven years of age, to have “ known pureness and righteousness.”. In other things his dullness continued ; for, though his relations thought to have made him a priest, it was more judiciously determined to make him a shoemaker. We conclude his dullness continued, and that his friends acted judiciously, for the utmost literary pretensions, made for this “man of God," as Penn calls him, in after life, by his most affectionate disciples, were that "he could read pretty well, and write-though not quickly-so much as would serve him afterwards to signify his meaning to others.” “ It cannot be denied,” says Sewel,“ he was no good speller, but his characters being tolerable, his writing was legible.” Now it was not till long after his friends had determined to bind him to the “gentle craft,” that the Lord opened to Fox, “that being bred at Oxford and Cambridge was not enough to fit and qualify men to be ministers of Christ;" or, that he stumbled on the words of the Apostle, “that they needed no man to teach them;" and, therefore, his friends, naturally enough, imagined that some spice of learning was essential to the ministry; and George not taking kindly to writing, reading, and the earlier mysteries of education, they, in their human and fallible judgment, recommended boot-closing. George, indeed, could not but thank them; for we infer, from many passages, that in early life he looked on what he called “Hebrew, Greek, and Latin, and the Seven
* There is an admirable description of a puritan weaver in Chapman's Monsieur D' Olive. It is too intimately interwoven with the scene to admit of being extracted.
Arts," as cabalistical, and damnable; that learning was
cobweb of the brain,
Profane, erroneous, and vain.Did not, he asks triumphantly," the languages begin at Babel ? and did not St. John the divine, say that the beast and the whore had power over tongues?”. No doubt of it ; but it was unkind of George 'to include his mother tongue; especially as the lady was of the family of the Lago's.”
Right or wrong, George was apprenticed to a shoemaker; but his master dealing also in wool and cattle, and George taking more delight in sheep than shoe-making, his disciples call him a shepherd, " a just emblem," they say, "of his after ministry and service.” George was certainly no “ Perkin Revelour;" for he did acquit him so diligently in his business, and minded it so well, that his master. was successful in his trade, whilst George continued with him ;-—" while I was with him,” he observes,he was blest, but after I left him, he broke, and came to nothing."
With this master George continued, very much in the ore dinary course of ordinary people, until he was nineteen; when being at a fair, he met with a cousin and another friend, both
professors,” and they agreed to drink together. These “ ' professors," however, were not so easily satisfied as their companion; "they began to drink healths, and called for more drink, agreeing together, that he that would not drink should
рау. This grieved me,” says George, “very much, having never had such a thing put to me before, by any sort of people.” Wherefore I rose up, and putting my hand into my pocket, took out a groat, and laid it upon the table before them, saying, “ If it be so, I will leave you ;” and he did leave them. This is a circumstance of no importance in itself, but great in its consequence; it was the occasion of the first divine communication. “I went away,” he continues, “and when I had done my business, returned home ; but I did not go to bed that night, nor could I sleep; but sometimes walked up and down, and sometimes prayed, and cried to the Lord,” who said unto me, “ Thou seest how young people go together into vanity, and old people into the earth; thou must forsake all, young and old, keep out of all, and be a stranger unto all.” George understood this literally, left his relations and his master, and wandered over the country, inclining towards London, though without any apparent intention of going there, until he reached Barnet'; there he“ was tempted almost to despair ;” and notwithstanding what he calls “ the command of God, given on “the ninth of the seventh month," before alluded to, he questioned if he had not