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I mentioned before, that in the year 1650, I was kept prisoner six months in the house of correction at Derby, and that the keeper of the prison being a cruel man, and one that had dealt very wickedly by me, was smitten in himself, the plagues and terrors of the Lord falling upon him because thereof: this man, being afterwards convinced of truth, wrote me the following letter.
• Dear FRIEND,—Having such a convenient messenger, I could do no less than give thee an account of my present condition ; remembering, that to the first awakening of me to a sense of life, and of the inward principle, God was pleased to make use of thee as an instrument. So that sometimes I am taken with admiration that it should come by such a means as it did; that is to say, that Providence should order thee to be my prisoner, to give me my first real sight of the truth. It makes me many times to think of the gaoler's conversation by the apostles. O, happy George Fox! that first breathed that breath of life within the walls of my habitation! notwithstanding my outward losses are since that time such that I am become nothing in the world, yet I hope I shall find that all these light afflictions, which are but for a moment, will work for me a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory. They have taken all from me; and now, instead of keeping a prison, I am rather waiting when I shall become a prisoner myself. Pray for me, that my faith fail not, but that I may hold out to the death, that I may receive a crown of life. I earnestly desire to hear from thee, and of thy condition, which would very much rejoice me. Not having else at present, but my kind love unto thee, and all christian friends with thee, in haste, I rest thine in Christ Jesus.
THOMAS SHARMAN. • Derby, the 22d of the 4th month, 1662.'
There were two of our friends in prison in the inquisition at Malta, both women ; Catharine Evans and Sarah Chevers. I was told that one called the Lord D'Aubeny could procure their liberty ; wherefore I went to him: and having informed him concerning their imprisonment, desired him to write to the magistrates there for their release. He readily promised me he would; and said, if I would come again within a month he would tell me of their discharge.' I went again about that time, and he said, he thought his letters had miscarried, because he had received no answer.' But he promised he would write again, and did so: whereupon they were set at liberty.
With this great man I had a great deal of reasoning about religion, and he confessed that •Christ hath enlightened every man that cometh into the world with his spiritual light; that he had tasted death for every man: that the grace of God, which brings salvation, hath appeared to all men; and that it would teach them, and bring their salvation, if they did obey it.' Then I asked him, what would they (the papists,) do with all their relics and images, if they should own and believe in this light, and receive the grace to teach them and bring their salvation ? he said, those things were but policies to keep people in subjection.' Very free he was in discourse. I never heard a papist confess so much as he did. Now, though several about the court began to grow loving to Friends, yet the persecution was very hot, and several Friends died in prison. Whereupon I gave forth a little paper concerning the grounds and rise of persecution; which was thus:
• All the sufferings of the people of God in all ages, were because they could not join to the national religions and worships which men had made and set up, and because they would not forsake God's religion and his worship which he had set up. And you may see through all chronicles and histories, that the priests joined with the powers of the nations ; the magistrates, and soothsayers, and fortunetellers, all these joined against the people of God, and did imagine vain things against them in their councils. When the Jews did wickedly, they turned against Moses. When the Jewish kings transgressed the law of God, they persecuted the prophets; as may be seen in the prophets' writings. And when Christ, the substance, came, then the Jews persecuted Christ, his apostles, and disciples. And when the Jews had not power enough of themselves to persecute answerable to their wills, then they got the heathen Gentiles to help them against Christ, and against his apostles and his disciples, who were in the spirit and power of Christ.
G. F: After I had made some stay in London, and had cleared myself of what lay upon me there, I went into the country, having with me Alexander Parker and John Stubbs, who was lately come back from Alexandria, in Egypt, as was mentioned before. We travelled through the country, visiting Friends' meetings till we came to Bristol. There we understood, that the officers were likely to come and break up
the meeting; yet on first-day we went to the meeting at Broad-mead, and Alexander Parker standing up first, while he was speaking, the officers came and took him away. After he was gone, I stood up in the eternal power of God, and declared the everlasting truth of the Lord God; and the heavenly power came over all, and the meeting was quiet the rest of the time, and broke up peaceably. I tarried till first-day following, visiting Friends, and being visited by Friends. On first-day morning, several Friends came to Edward Pyot's (where I lay the night before) and used endeavours to persuade me not to go to the meeting that day ; for the magistrates, they said, had threatened to take me, and had raised the train-bands. I wished them to go their way to the meeting, not tell
ing them what I intended to do; but I told Edward Pyot 1 intended to go, and he sent his son to show me the way from his house by the fields. As I went I met divers Friends, who did what they could to stop me: •What,' said one, wilt thou go into the mouth of the beast? Wilt thou go into the mouth of the dragon ? said another. But I put them by and went on. When I came to the meeting, Margaret Thomas was speaking. When she had done, I stood up. I saw a concern and fear upon Friends for me; but the power of the Lord, in which I declared, soon struck the fear out of them. Life sprang, and an heavenly glorious meeting we had. After I had cleared myself of what was upon me from the Lord to the meeting, I was moved to pray, and after prayer to stand up again, and tell Friends, now they might see there was a God in Israel that could deliver.' A very large full meeting this was, and very hot; but truth was over all, and the life was up which carried through all, and the meeting broke up in peace. The officers and soldiers had been breaking up another meeting, which had taken up their time; so that our meeting was ended before they came. But I understood afterwards they were in a great rage, because they had missed me; for they were heard to say one to another before, I'll warrant we shall have him; but the Lord prevented them. I went to Joan Hily's, where many Friends came to see me; rejoicing and blessing God for our deliverance. In the evening I had a fine fresh meeting at a Friend's house over the water, where we were much refreshed in the Lord. After this I staid most part of that week in Bristol, and at Edward Pyot's. Edward was brought so low and weak with an ague, that when I first came he was looked upon as a dying man; but it pleased the Lord to raise him up again, so that, before I went away, his ague left him, and he was finely well.
Having been two first-days at the meeting at Broad-mead, and feeling my spirit clear of Bristol, I went next first-day to a meeting in the country not far distant. And after the meeting, some Friends from Bristol told me, the soldiers that day had beset the meeting-house round at Bristol, and then went up saying, “they would be sure to have me now;' but when they found me not there, they were in a great rage, and kept Friends in the meeting-house most part of the day before they would let them go home; and queried of them, 'Which way I was gone, and how they might send after me? for the mayor, (they said,) would fain have spoken with me. I had a vision of a great mastiff dog, that would have bit me; but I put one hand above his jaws, and the other hand below, and tore his jaws in pieces. So the Lord by his power tore their power to pieces, and made way for me to escape them. Then I passed through the country, visiting Friends in Wiltshire and Berkshire, till I came to London, having great meetings amongst Friends as I went. The Lord's power was over all, and a blessed time it was for the spreading of his glorious truth. It was indeed the immediate power of the Lord that preserved me out of their hands at Bristol, and over the heads of all our persecutors; and the Lord alone is worthy of all the glory, who did uphold and preserve for his name, and truth's sake.
At London I staid not long, being drawn in spirit to visit Friends northward as far as Leicestershire. John Stubbs was with me. We travelled down, having meetings amongst Friends as we went; and at Skegby we had a great meeting. Thence we came to. Barnet-hills, where lived one captain Brown, a Baptist, whose wise was convinced of truth. This captain Brown, after the act for breaking up meetings' came forth, being afraid his wife should go to meetings, and be cast into prison, left his house at Barrow, and took a place on these hills, saying, • His wife should not go to prison. And this being a free place, many both priests and others fled thither as well as he. But he, who would neither stand to truth himself nor suffer his wife, was in this place, where he thought himself safe, found out by the Lord, whose hand fell heavy upon him for his unfaithfulness; so that he was sorely plagued, and grievously judged in himself for flying and drawing his wife into that private place. We went to see his wife, and being into the house, I asked him, how he did ? How do I ? (said he,) the plagues and vengeance of God are upon me, a runagate, a Cain as I am. God may look for a witness for me, and such as me; for if all were not faithfuller than I, God would have no witness left in the earth. In this condition he lived there on bread and water, and thought it was too good for him. At length he got home again with his wife to his own house at Barrow, where afterwards he was convinced of God's eternal truth, and died in it. A little before his death he said, though he had not borne a testimony for truth in his life, he would bear a testimony in his death, and would be buried in his orchard ;' and was so. He was an example to all the flying Baptists in the time of persecution, who could not bear persecution themselves, yet persecuted us when they had
power. From Barnet-hills we came to Swanington, in Leicestershire, where William Smith and some other Friends came to me; but went away towards night, leaving me at a Friend's house in Swanington. At night as I was sitting in the hall, speaking to a widow-woman and her daughter, lord Beaumont came with a company of soldiers, who, slapping their swords on the door, rushed into the house with swords and pistols in their hands, crying, “Put out the candles, and make fast the doors.' Then they seized upon the Friends in the house and asked, •If there were no more about the house?' the Friends told them, there was one man more in the hall. There being some Friends out of Derbyshire, one of them was named Thomas Fauks; this lord Beaumont, so called, after he had
asked all their names, bid his man set down that man's name Thomas Fox. The Friend said, nay, his name was not Fox, but Fauks. In the mean time some of the soldiers came, and fetched me out of the hall to him. He asked my name. I told him my name was George Fox, and that I was well known by that name. • Ay, (said he,) you are known all the world over.' I said, I was known for no hurt, but for good. Then he put his hands into my pockets to search them, and plucked out my comb-case, and afterwards commanded one of his officers to search further for letters, as he pretended. I told him, I was no letter-carrier, and asked him, why he came amongst a peaceable people with swords and pistols, without a constable, contrary to the king's proclamation and to the late act? for he could not say, there was a meeting, I being only talking with a poor widow-woman and her daughter. By reasoning thus with him, he came somewhat down; yet sending for the constables, he gave them charge of us that night, and to bring us before him next morning. Accordingly the constables set a watch of the town's people upon us that night, and had us next morning to his house about a mile from Swanington. When we came before him, he told us, We met contrary to the act.' I desired him to show us the act. Why, (says he) you have it in your pocket.' I told him, he did not find us in a meeting. Then he asked, “Whether we would take the oaths of allegiance and supremacy ?? I told him, I never took any oath in my life, nor engagement, nor the covenant. Yet still he would force the oath upon us. Then I desired him to show us the oath, that we might see whether we were the persons it was to be tendered to, and whether it was not for the discovery of popish recusants. At length he brought a little book, but we called for the statute-book. He would not show us that, but caused a mittimus to be made, which mentioned, that we were to have had a meeting. With this mittimus he delivered us to the constables to convey us to Leicester gaol. But when the constables had brought us back to Swanington, being harvest time, it was hard to get any body to go with’us. The people were loath to take their neighbours to prison, especially in such a busy time. They would have given us our mittimus to have carried ourselves to the goal; for it had been usual for constables to give Friends their own mittimuses, and they have gone themselves with them to the gaoler. But we told them, though our friends bad sometimes done so, we would not take this mittimus; but some of them should go with us to the gaol. At last they bired a poor labouring man, who was loath to go though hired. So we rode through the country to Leicester, being five in number; some carried their bibles open in their hands, declaring truth to the people as we rode in the fields and through the towns, and telling them, We were prisoners of the Lord Jesus Christ, going to suffer bonds for his name and truth's sake.' One woman Vol. II.