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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 bis 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
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 hath 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 people himself; and every one that will not hear this prophet, which God hath raised up, and which Moses spake of, when he said, ' Like unto me will God raise you up a prophet, him shall you hear;' every one, I say, that will not hear this prophet, is to be cut off.” In his Journal, he says, “From Coventry I went to Atherstone, and it being their lecture day, I was moved to go to their chapel, to speak to the priest and the people. They were generally pretty quiet; only some few raged, and would have had my relations to have bound me. I declared largely to them, that God was come to teach his people himself, and to bring them from all their man-made teachers, to hear his Son; and some were convinced there." This same language, “ that God was come to teach his people himself," Fox used upon more than one occasion. Those very words he addressed to the people at Doncaster; and with those same, we have seen, he so staggered the poor papist, that he fled from his own home with horror, as Fox triumphantly records. We repeat, that we know how, upon occasion, this language was qualified and explained; but this was the language ; this was the abrupt, daring, astounding manner in which he was accustomed to address persons who neither knew his person nor his principles; and such an address sounded, we suspect, to his hearers, quite as blasphemous as the ravings of Muggleton, or any other madman.
But even the real pretensions of Fox, as admitted by his followers, and collected from his own words, understood with his own interpretation, were not a little startling. The foundation of his dissent was, briefly, that the scriptures are not the rule either of conduct or judgment, but “ the light of Christ within man.” The “ light within,” is to the understanding of the million, the misunderstanding million, we suppose Fox would say, at any rate, to all but himself and followers, is reason; and to say, men's conduct and judgment are not to be formed by the scriptures, but by reason, is pure deism. But Fox's words are, “ the light of Christ within ;" and, says Penn, there is the natural light-that is, reason-the light of God, and the light of the evil one. Admit it; but how are the world, the uninitiated, to distinguish between them. Experience, says one of themselves, when difference bad sprung up,“ hath taught, that imagination sometimes works so powerfully in the mind, that one thinks himself obliged to do a thing which were better left undone.” The Quakers themselves then cannot distinguish between these lights, and have no other rule to decide by, but the conduct and opinions of another, being in agreement with their own conduct and opinions. Every man,” said one of them, “ hath the witness in himself,” and must witness to himself, we add ; but what is to witness to the world? what was to satisfy the minds, for instance, of the people of Nottingham, when their minister had just told them, it was the scriptures by which they were to try all doctrines, religions, and opinions; that Fox was justified in rudely interrupting him, and exclaiming, “Oh no, it is not the scriptures; it is the holy spirit of God, by which the holy men of God gave forth the scriptures ?” How were they to distinguish between Fox and Muggleton; between " the truths” of the one, and “the blasphemies” of the other ? and why were they to shut up one from the conversation of men, and leave the other at liberty ? “Oh,” say the Quakers, “ every man hath the witness within himself,”-that is to say, the test within himself. Well, then, by this test was Fox tried, and shut up in prison, though not excluded from the conversation of men. This is not our argument, it is their own.
But this “ witness,” it appears to us, is not certainly relied on, even by the Quakers themselves. It is time, and not agreement, that is the real test. What do they say to the following, as we quote it, word for word, from the first edition of the Journal, edited by Penn-“As I was sitting in a house full of people, declaring the word of life to them, I cast mine eyes upon a woman, and I discerned an unclean spirit in her. And I was moved of the Lord to speak sharply to her, and told her she was a witch : whereupon the woman went out of the room. Now, I being a stranger there, and knowing nothing of the woman outwardly, the people wondered at it; and told me afterwards, I had discovered a great thing, for all the country looked upon her as a witch.
The Lord had given me a spirit of discerning, by which I many times saw the states and conditions of people, and could try their spirits. For, not long before, as I was going to a meeting, I saw women in a field, and I discerned them to be witches ; and I was moved to go out of my way into the field to them, and to declare unto them their conditions ; telling them plainly, they were in the spirit of witchcraft. At another time, there came such an one into Swarthmore Hall, in the meeting time; and I was moved to speak sharply to her, and told her, she was a witch; and the people said, afterwards, she was generally accounted so.” Now we beg the reader, and it is necessary, if he means to do justice to this “ discernment,” to transport himself back to the age in which Fox lived ; to remember that witchcraft was then a statutable offence, as well known, and as certainly punished, as house-breaking, or highway robbery; and that more than sixty persons are said to have suffered death for it, in one year, in one county. Now we ask, what did the Quakers of the eighteenth century say to this discovery of witches, by the spirit of the Lord? Why, they said nothing, but silently, without one word of note or comment, altered the passage ; which is thus printed in the last edition : If this be not done in " the spirit of the Lord,” it is in “ the spirit of discerning;” of discerning what nonsense the age has outgrown. We request the readers to compare the passages in italics, and mark the omissions. “ As I was sitting in a house full of people, declaring the word of life unto them, I. cast mine eye upon a woman, and discerned an unclean spirit in her; I was moved of the Lord to speak sharply to her, and told her, she was under the influence of an unclean spirit; whereupon the woman went out of the room. I. being a stranger there, and knowing nothing of the woman outwardly, the people wondered, and told me afterwards, I had discovered a great thing, for all the country looked upon her to be a wicked person. The Lord had given me a spirit of discerning, by which I many times saw the states and conditions of people, and could try their spirits. Not long before, as I was going to a meeting, I saw some women in a field, and discerned an evil spirit in them; and I was moved to go out of my way into the field to them, and declare unto them their conditions. Another time, there came one into Swarthmore Hall, in the meeting time, and I was moved to speak sharply to her, and told her she was under the power of an evil spirit ; and the people said afterwards, she was generally accounted so to be." These are strange alterations, and we hardly know how to reconcile them with that sincerity, which we are willing and anxious to allow to all men,
however widely we may differ from them in opinion.*
* This is an old charge against the Quakers. Thus, in A Trumpet of the Lord, sounded forth of Sion, &c. written by the famous Edward Burroughs, and published in 1656; a trumpet sounded, as he asserted, “By order and authority given unto me, by the Spirit of the living God, the 31st day of the tenth month, 1655, about the fourth hour in the morning.” One blast was addressed to “ Oliver Cromwell and his Council;" another, “ to the judges ;” a third “ to all astrologers, &c.;" a fourth, " to all generals, &c.;" and there was a fifth, " to all you, who are, and have been always, enemies to the very appearance of righteousness, who are called Delinquents and Cavaliers." Now, it appears this trumpet was not quite so distinct in any of its soundings, in 1672, when the work was reprinted, but this fifth sounding was so especially soft, that it could not be heard, and was wholly omitted in that edition. Now, considering the authority, being no other than “ the Spirit of the living God,” we know not well how to reconcile these things. We know it is the practice, but we are not aware that they claim the power to silence a prophet, or to amend, alter, or apply the positive commands of God, as they assert these things to be. It would certainly have required some nerve to publish this fifth sounding after the Restoration, and some ingenuity to recon cile it with foreknowledge and omnipotence.