At the Work of Organizing 1667-1670
I then visited Friends till I came to York, where we had a large meeting. After this I went to visit Justice Robinson, an ancient justice of the peace, who had been very loving to me and Friends from the beginning.
There was a priest with him, who told me that it was said of us, that we loved none but ourselves. I told him that we loved all mankind, as they were God’s creation, and as they were children of Adam and Eve by generation; and that we loved the brotherhood in the Holy Ghost.
This stopped him. After some other discourse we parted friendly, and passed away.
About this time I wrote a book, entitled, “Fear God, and Honour the King”; in which I showed that none could rightly fear God and honour the King but they that departed from sin and evil. This book greatly affected the soldiers, and most people.
Then I was moved of the Lord to recommend the setting up of five monthly meetings of men and women in the city of London (besides the women’s meetings and the quarterly meetings), to take care of God’s glory, and to admonish and exhort such as walked disorderly or carelessly, and not according to Truth. For whereas Friends had had only quarterly meetings, now Truth was spread, and Friends were grown more numerous, I was moved to recommend the setting up of monthly meetings throughout the nation. And the Lord opened to me what I must do, and how the men’s and women’s monthly and quarterly meetings should be ordered and established in this and in other nations; and that I should write to those where I did not come, to do the same.
After things were well settled at London, and the Lord’s Truth, power, seed, and life reigned and shone over all in the city, I went into Essex.
[Throughout the counties where he had preached, he now went, setting up monthly meetings, i.e., local meetings for transacting the business of the Church and for ordering and overseeing the moral and spiritual life of the membership. We shall not follow his movements in detail, but it may here be noted that the world’s records show few instances of more striking energy, and fidelity to a divine mission, than do the entries of these twenty-four years. Here is one glimpse of him as he is traveling through “the frost and snow,” during the winter of 1667.]
I was so exceeding weak, I was hardly able to get on or off my horse’s back; but my spirit being earnestly engaged in the work the Lord had concerned me in and sent me forth about, I travelled on therein, notwithstanding the weakness of my body, having confidence in the Lord, that He would carry me through, as He did by His power.
We came into Cheshire, where we had several blessed meetings, and a general men’s meeting; wherein all the monthly meetings for that county were settled, according to the gospel order, in and by the power of God.
After the meeting I passed away. But when the justices heard of it, they were very much troubled that they had not come and broken it up, and taken me; but the Lord prevented them.
Then, returning towards London by Waltham, I advised the setting up of a school there for teaching boys; and also a woman’s school to be opened at Shacklewell, for instructing girls and young maidens in whatsoever things were civil and useful in the creation.
Thus were the men’s monthly meetings settled through the nation. [1668.] The quarterly meetings were generally settled before.
I wrote also into Ireland by faithful Friends, and into Scotland, Holland, Barbadoes, and several parts of America, advising Friends to settle their men’s monthly meetings in those countries. For they had had their general quarterly meetings before; but now that Truth was increased amongst them, it was needful that they should settle those men’s monthly meetings in the power and Spirit of God, that first convinced them.
Since these meetings have been settled, and all the faithful in the power of God, who are heirs of the gospel, have met together in the power of God, which is their authority, to perform service to the Lord, many mouths have been opened in thanksgiving and praise, and many have blessed the Lord God, that ever He sent me forth in this service. For now all coming to have a concern and care for God’s honour and glory, and His name, which they profess, be not blasphemed; and to see that all who profess the Truth walk in the Truth, in righteousness and in holiness, as becomes the house of God, and that all order their conversation aright, that they may see the salvation of God; they may all see and know, possess and partake of, the government of Christ, of the increase of which there is to be no end.
Thus the Lord’s everlasting renown and praise are set up in the heart of every one that is faithful; so that we can say the gospel order established amongst us is not of man, nor by man, but of and by Jesus Christ, in and through the Holy Ghost.
This order of the gospel, which is not of man nor by man, but from Christ, the heavenly man, is above all the orders of men in the fall, whether Jews, Gentiles, or apostate Christians, and will remain when they are gone. For the power of God, which is the everlasting gospel, was before the devil was, and will be and remain forever. And as the everlasting gospel was preached in the apostles’ days to all nations, that all nations might, through the divine power which brings life and immortality to light, come into the order of it, so now the everlasting gospel is to be, and is, preached again, as John the divine foresaw it should be, to all nations, kindreds, tongues, and people.
Now was I moved of the Lord to go over into Ireland, to visit the Seed of God in that nation. There went with me Robert Lodge, James Lancaster, Thomas Briggs, and John Stubbs.
We waited near Liverpool for shipping and wind. After waiting some days, we sent James Lancaster to take passage, which he did, and brought word the ship was ready, and would take us in at Black Rock. We went thither on foot; and it being some distance, and the weather very hot, I was much spent with walking.
When we arrived, the ship was not there; so we were obliged to go to the town and take shipping. When we were on board, I said to the rest of my company, “Come, ye will triumph in the Lord, for we shall have fair wind and weather.”
Many passengers in the ship were sick, but not one of our company. The captain and many of the passengers were very loving; and we being at sea on the first day of the week, I was moved to declare Truth among them; whereupon the captain said to the passengers, “Here are things that you never heard in your lives.”
When we came before Dublin, we took boat and went ashore; and the earth and air smelt, methought, of the corruption of the nation, so that it yielded another smell to me than England did; which I imputed to the Popish massacres that had been committed, and the blood that had been spilt in it, from which a foulness ascended.
We passed through among the officers of the custom four times, yet they did not search us; for they perceived what we were: some of them were so envious they did not care to look at us.
We did not soon find Friends; but went to an inn, and sent out to inquire for some. These, when they came to us, were exceedingly glad of our coming, and received us with great joy.
We stayed there the weekly meeting, which was a large one, and the power and life of God appeared greatly in it. Afterwards we passed to a province meeting, which lasted two days, there being one about the poor, and another meeting more general; in which a mighty power of the Lord appeared. Truth was livingly declared, and Friends were much refreshed therein.
Passing thence about four and twenty miles, we came to another place, where we had a very good, refreshing meeting; but after it some Papists that were there were angry, and raged very much. When I heard of it, I sent for one of them, who was a schoolmaster; but he would not come.
Thereupon I sent a challenge to him, with all the friars and monks, priests and Jesuits, to come forth, and “try their God and their Christ, which they had made of bread and wine,” but no answer could I get from them. I told them they were worse than the priests of Baal; for Baal’s priests tried their wooden god, but these durst not try their god of bread and wine; and Baal’s priests and people did not eat their god as these did, and then make another.
He that was then mayor of Cork, being very envious against Truth and Friends, had many Friends in prison. Knowing I was in the country, he sent four warrants to take me; therefore Friends were desirous that I should not ride through Cork. But, being at Bandon, there appeared to me in a vision a very ugly-visaged man, of a black and dark look. My spirit struck at him in the power of God, and it seemed to me that I rode over him with my horse, and my horse set his foot on the side of his face.
When I came down in the morning, I told a friend the command of the Lord to me was to ride through Cork; but I bade him tell no man. So we took horse, many Friends being with me.
When we came near the town, Friends would have shown me a way through the back side of it; but I told them my way was through the streets. Taking Paul Morrice to guide me through the town, I rode on.
As we rode through the market-place, and by the mayor’s door, he, seeing me, said, “There goes George Fox”; but he had not power to stop me. When we had passed the sentinels, and were come over the bridge, we went to a Friend’s house and alighted. There the Friends told me what a rage was in the town, and how many warrants were granted to take me.
While I was sitting there I felt the evil spirit at work in the town, stirring up mischief against me; and I felt the power of the Lord strike at that evil spirit.
By-and-by some other friends coming in, told me it was over the town, and amongst the magistrates that I was in the town. I said, “Let the devil do his worst.” After we had refreshed ourselves, I called for my horse, and having a Friend to guide me, we went on our way.
Great was the rage that the mayor and others of Cork were in that they had missed me, and great pains they afterwards took to catch me, having their scouts abroad upon the roads, as I understood, to observe which way I went. Scarce a public meeting I came to, but spies came to watch if I were there. The magistrates and priests sent information one to another concerning me, describing me by my hair, hat, clothes and horse; so that when I was near an hundred miles from Cork they had an account concerning me and a description of me before I came amongst them.
One very envious magistrate, who was both a priest and a justice, got a warrant from the Judge of assize to apprehend me. The warrant was to go over all his circuit, which reached near an hundred miles. Yet the Lord disappointed all their councils, defeated all their designs against me, and by His good hand of Providence preserved me out of all their snares, and gave us many sweet and blessed opportunities to visit Friends, and spread Truth through that nation.
For meetings were very large, Friends coming to them from far and near; and other people flocking in. The powerful presence of the Lord was preciously felt amongst us. Many of the world were reached, convinced, and gathered to the Truth; the Lord’s flock was increased; and Friends were greatly refreshed and comforted in feeling the love of God. Oh the brokenness that was amongst them in the flowings of life! so that, in the power and Spirit of the Lord, many together broke out into singing, even with audible voices, making melody in their hearts.
After I had travelled over Ireland, and visited Friends in their meetings, as well for business as for worship, and had answered several papers and writings from monks, friars, and Protestant priests (for they were all in a rage against us, and endeavoured to stop the work of the Lord, and some Jesuits swore in our hearing that we had come to spread our principles in that nation, but should not do it), I returned to Dublin, in order to take passage for England. I stayed to the First-day’s meeting there, which was very large and precious.
There being a ship ready, and the wind serving, we took our leave of Friends; parting in much tenderness and brokenness, in the sense of the heavenly life and power manifested amongst us. Having put our horses and necessaries on board in the morning, we went ourselves in the afternoon, many Friends accompanying us to the ship; and diverse Friends and Friendly people followed us in boats when we were near a league at sea, their love drawing them, though not without danger.
A good, weighty, and true people there is in that nation, sensible of the power of the Lord God, and tender of His truth. Very good order they have in their meetings; for they stand up for righteousness and holiness, which dams up the way of wickedness. A precious visitation they had, and there is an excellent spirit in them, worthy to be visited. Many things more I could write of that nation, and of my travels in it; but thus much I thought good to signify, that the righteous may rejoice in the prosperity of truth.
We travelled till we came to Bristol, where I met with Margaret Fell, who was come to visit her daughter Yeomans.
I had seen from the Lord a considerable time before, that I should take Margaret Fell to be my wife. And when I first mentioned it to her, she felt the answer of Life from God thereunto. But though the lord had opened this thing to me, yet I had not received a command from the Lord for the accomplishing of it then. Wherefore I let the thing rest, and went on in the work and service of the Lord as before, according as he led me; travelling up and down in this nation, and through Ireland.
But now being at Bristol, and finding Margaret Fell there, it opened in me from the Lord that the thing should be accomplished. After we had discoursed the matter together, I told her, if she also was satisfied with the accomplishing of it now, she should first send for her children; which she did. When the rest of her daughters were come, I asked both them and her sons-in-law if they had anything against it, or for it; and they all severally expressed their satisfaction therein.
Then I asked Margaret if she had fulfilled and performed her husband’s will to her children. She replied, “The children know that.” Whereupon I asked them whether, if their mother married, they would lose by it. And I asked Margaret whether she had done anything in lieu of it, which might answer it to the children.
The children said she had answered it to them, and desired me to speak no more of it. I told them I was plain, and would have all things done plainly; for I sought not any outward advantage to myself.
So, after I had thus acquainted the children with it, our intention of marriage was laid before Friends, both privately and publicly, to their full satisfaction. Many of them gave testimony thereunto that it was of God. Afterwards, a meeting being appointed for the accomplishing thereof, in the meeting-house at Broad-Mead, in Bristol, we took each other, the Lord joining us together in honourable marriage, in the everlasting covenant and immortal Seed of life. In the sense thereof living and weighty testimonies were borne thereunto by Friends, in the movings of the heavenly power which united us.Then was a certificate, relating both the proceedings and the marriage, openly read, and signed by the relations, and by most of the ancient Friends of that city, besides many others from diverse parts of the nation.
We stayed about a week in Bristol, and then went together to Oldstone: where, taking leave of each other in the Lord, we parted, betaking ourselves each to our several service; Margaret returning homewards to the north, and I passing on in the work of the Lord as before. I travelled through Wiltshire, Berkshire, Oxfordshire, Buckinghamshire, and so to London, visiting Friends: in all of which counties I had many large and precious meetings.
[In 1670 the so-called Conventicle Act, originally passed in 1664, was renewed with increased vigor. The Act limited religious gatherings, other than those of the Established Church, to five persons, and brought all who refused to take an oath under the penalties of the Act. ]
On the First-day after the Act came in force, I went to the meeting at Gracechurch Street, where I expected the storm was most likely to begin.
When I came there, I found the street full of people, and a guard set to keep Friends out of their meeting-house. I went to the other passage out of Lombard street, where also I found a guard; but the court was full of people, and a Friend was speaking amongst them; but he did not speak long.
When he had done, I stood up, and was moved to say, “Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me? it is hard for thee to kick against that which pricks thee.” Then I showed that it is Saul’s nature that persecutes still, and that they who persecute Christ in His members now, where He is made manifest, kick against that which pricks them; that it was the birth of the flesh that persecuted the birth born of the Spirit, and that it was the nature of dogs to tear and devour the sheep; but that we suffered as sheep, that bite not again, for we were a peaceable people, and loved them that persecuted us.
After I had spoken a while to this effect, the constable came with an informer and soldiers; and as they pulled me down, I said, “Blessed are the peacemakers.”
The commander put me among the soldiers, and bade them secure me, saying to me, “You are the man I looked for.” They took also John Burnyeat and another Friend, and led us away, first to the Exchange, and afterwards towards Moorfields. As we went along the streets the people were very moderate; some of them laughed at the constable, and told him we would not run away.
The informer went with us unknown, till, falling into discourse with one of the company, he said it would never be a good world till all people came to the good old religion that was two hundred years ago. Whereupon I asked him, “Art thou a Papist? What! a Papist informer; for two hundred years ago there was no other religion but that of the Papists.”
He saw he had ensnared himself, and was vexed at it; for as he went along the streets I spoke often to him, and manifested what he was.
When we were come to the mayor’s house, and were in the courtyard, several of the people that stood about, asked me how and for what I was taken. I desired them to ask the informer, and also what his name was; but he refused to tell his name. Whereupon one of the mayor’s officers, looking out at a window, told him he should tell his name before he went away; for the lord mayor would know by what authority he intruded himself with soldiers into the execution of those laws which belonged to the civil magistrate to execute, and not to the military.
After this, he was eager to be gone; and went to the porter to be let out. One of the officers called to him, saying, “Have you brought people here to inform against, and now will you go away before my lord mayor comes?” Some called to the porter not to let him out; whereupon he forcibly pulled open the door and slipped out.
No sooner was he come into the street than the people gave a shout that made the street ring again, crying out, “A Papist informer! a Papist informer!” We desired the constable and soldiers to go and rescue him out of the people’s hands, fearing lest they should do him a mischief.
They went, and brought him into the mayor’s entry, where they stayed a while; but when he went out again, the people received him with another shout. The soldiers were fain to go and rescue him once more, and they led him into a house in an alley, where they persuaded him to change his periwig, and so he got away unknown.
When the mayor came, we were brought into the room where he was, and some of his officers would have taken off our hats, perceiving which he called to them, and bade them let us alone, and not meddle with our hats; “for,” said he, “they are not yet brought before me in judicature.” So we stood by while he examined some Presbyterian and Baptist teachers; with whom he was somewhat sharp, and convicted them.
After he had done with them, I was brought up to the table where he sat; and then the officers took off my hat. The mayor said mildly to me, “Mr. Fox, you are an eminent man amongst those of your profession; pray, will you be instrumental to dissuade them from meeting in such great numbers? for, seeing Christ hath promised that where two or three are met in His name, He will be in the midst of them, and the King and Parliament are graciously pleased to allow four to meet together to worship God; why will not you be content to partake both of Christ’s promise to two or three, and the King’s indulgence to four?”
I answered to this purpose: “Christ’s promise was not to discourage many from meeting together in His name, but to encourage the few, that the fewest might not forbear to meet because of their fewness. But if Christ hath promised to manifest His presence in the midst of so small an assembly, where but two or three are gathered in His name, how much more would His presence abound where two or three hundred are gathered in His name?”
I wished him to consider whether this Act, if it had been in their time, would not have taken hold of Christ, with His twelve apostles and seventy disciples, who used to meet often together, and that with great numbers? However, I told him this Act did not concern us; for it was made against seditious meetings, of such as met under colour and pretence of religion “to contrive insurrections, as [the Act says] late experience had shown.” But we had been sufficiently tried and proved, and always found peaceable, and therefore he would do well to put a difference between the innocent and the guilty.
He said the Act was made against meetings, and a worship not according to the liturgy.
I told him “according to” was not the very same thing; and asked him whether the liturgy was according to the Scriptures, and whether we might not read Scriptures and speak Scriptures.
He said, “Yes.”
I told him, “This Act takes hold only of such as meet to plot and contrive insurrections, as late experience hath shown; but they have never experienced that by us. Because thieves are sometimes on the road, must not honest men travel? And because plotters and contrivers have met to do mischief, must not an honest, peaceable people meet to do good? If we had been a people that met to plot and contrive insurrections, etc., we might have drawn ourselves into fours; for four might do more mischief in plotting than if there were four hundred, because four might speak out their minds more freely to one another than four hundred could. Therefore we, being innocent, and not the people this Act concerns, keep our meetings as we used to do. I believe thou knowest in thy conscience that we are innocent.”
After some more discourse, he took our names, and the places where we lodged; and at length, as the informer was gone, he set us at liberty.
The Friends with me now asked, “Whither wilt thou go?” I told them, “To Gracechurch street meeting again, if it is not over.”
When we came there, the people were generally gone; only some few stood at the gate. We went into Gerrard Roberts’s. Thence I sent to know how the other meetings in the city were. I found that at some of the meeting-places Friends had been kept out; at others they had been taken; but these were set at liberty again a few days after.
A glorious time it was; for the Lord’s power came over all, and His everlasting truth got renown. For in the meetings, as fast as some that were speaking were taken down, others were moved of the Lord to stand up and speak, to the admiration of the people; and the more because many Baptists and other sectaries left their public meetings, and came to see how the Quakers would stand.
As for the informer aforesaid, he was so frightened that hardly any informer dared to appear publicly in London for some time after. But the mayor, whose name was Samuel Starling, though he carried himself smoothly towards us, proved afterwards a very great persecutor of our Friends, many of whom he cast into prison, as may be seen in the trials of William Penn, William Mead, and others, at the Old Bailey this year.
As I was walking down a hill, a great weight and oppression fell upon my spirit. I got on my horse again, but the weight remained so that I was hardly able to ride.
At length we came to Rochester, but I was much spent, being so extremely laden and burthened with the world’s spirits, that my life was oppressed under them. I got with difficulty to Gravesend, and lay at an inn there; but could hardly either eat or sleep.
The next day John Rous and Alexander Parker went to London; and John Stubbs being come to me, we went over the ferry into Essex. We came to Hornchurch, where there was a meeting on First-day. After it I rode with great uneasiness to Stratford, to a Friend’s house, whose name was Williams, and who had formerly been a captain. Here I lay, exceedingly weak, and at last lost both hearing and sight. Several Friends came to me from London: and I told them that I should be a sign to such as would not see, and such as would not hear the Truth.
In this condition I continued some time. Several came about me; and though I could not see their persons, I felt and discerned their spirits, who were honest-hearted, and who were not. Diverse Friends who practiced physic came to see me, and would have given me medicines, but I was not to meddle with any; for I was sensible I had a travail to go through; and therefore desired none but solid, weighty Friends might be about me.
Under great sufferings and travails, sorrows and oppressions, I lay for several weeks, whereby I was brought so low and weak in body that few thought I could live. Some that were with me went away, saying they would not see me die; and it was reported both in London and in the country that I was deceased; but I felt the Lord’s power inwardly supporting me.
When they that were about me had given me up to die, I spoke to them to get a coach to carry me to Gerrard Roberts’s, about twelve miles off, for I found it was my place to go thither. I had now recovered a little glimmering of sight, so that I could discern the people and fields as I went, and that was all.
When I came to Gerrard’s, he was very weak, and I was moved to speak to him, and encourage him. After I had stayed about three weeks there, it was with me to go to Enfield. Friends were afraid of my removing; but I told them I might safely go.
When I had taken my leave of Gerrard, and was come to Enfield, I went first to visit Amor Stoddart, who lay very weak and almost speechless. I was moved to tell him that he had been faithful as a man, and faithful to God, and that the immortal Seed of life was his crown. Many more words I was moved to speak to him, though I was then so weak I was hardly able to stand; and within a few days after, Amor died.
I went to the widow Dry’s, at Enfield, where I lay all that winter, warring in spirit with the evil spirits of the world, that warred against Truth and Friends. For there were great persecutions at this time; some meeting-houses were pulled down, and many were broken up by soldiers. Sometimes a troop of horse, or a company of foot came; and some broke their swords, carbines, muskets, and pikes, with beating Friends; and many they wounded, so that their blood lay in the streets.
Amongst others that were active in this cruel persecution at London, my old adversary, Colonel Kirby, was one. With a company of foot, he went to break up several meetings; and he would often inquire for me at the meetings he broke up. One time as he went over the water to Horsleydown, there happening some scuffle between some of his soldiers and some of the watermen, he bade his men fire at them. They did so, and killed some.
I was under great sufferings at this time, beyond what I have words to declare. For I was brought into the deep, and saw all the religions of the world, and people that lived in them. And I saw the priests that held them up; who were as a company of men-eaters, eating up the people like bread, and gnawing the flesh from off their bones. But as for true religion, and worship, and ministers of God, alack! I saw there was none amongst those of the world that pretended to it.
Though it was a cruel, bloody, persecuting time, yet the Lord’s power went over all, His everlasting Seed prevailed; and Friends were made to stand firm and faithful in the Lord’s power. Some sober people of other professions would say, “If Friends did not stand, the nation would run into debauchery.”
Though by reason of my weakness I could not travel amongst Friends as I had been used to do, yet in the motion of life I sent the following lines as an encouraging testimony to them: —
“My dear Friends:
“The Seed is above all. In it walk; in which ye all have life.
“Be not amazed at the weather; for always the just suffered by the unjust, but the just had the dominion.
“All along ye may see, by faith the mountains were subdued; and the rage of the wicked, with his fiery darts, was quenched. Though the waves and storms be high, yet your faith will keep you, so as to swim above them; for they are but for a time, and the Truth is without time. Therefore keep on the mountain of holiness, ye who are led to it by the Light.
“Do not think that anything will outlast the Truth. For the Truth standeth sure; and is over that which is out of the Truth. For the good will overcome the evil; the light, darkness; the life, death; virtue, vice; and righteousness, unrighteousness. The false prophet cannot overcome the true; but the true prophet, Christ, will overcome all the false.
“So be faithful, and live in that which doth not think the time long.
After some time it pleased the Lord to allay the heat of this violent persecution; and I felt in spirit an overcoming of the spirits of those men-eaters that had stirred it up and carried it on to that height of cruelty. I was outwardly very weak; and I plainly felt, and those Friends that were with me, and that came to visit me, took notice, that as the persecution ceased I came from under the travails and sufferings that had lain with such weight upon me; so that towards the spring I began to recover, and to walk up and down, beyond the expectation of many, who did not think I could ever have gone abroad again.
Whilst I was under this spiritual suffering the state of the New Jerusalem which comes down out of heaven was opened to me; which some carnal-minded people had looked upon to be like an outward city dropped out of the elements. I saw the beauty and glory of it, the length, the breadth, and the height thereof, all in complete proportion. I saw that all who are within the Light of Christ, and in His faith, of which He is the author; and in the Spirit, the Holy Ghost, which Christ and the holy prophets and apostles were in; and within the grace, and truth, and power of God, which are the walls of the city; — I saw that such are within the city, are members of it, and have right to eat of the Tree of Life, which yields her fruit every month, and whose leaves are for the healing of the nations.
Many things more did I see concerning the heavenly city, the New Jerusalem, which are hard to be uttered, and would be hard to be received. But, in short, this holy city is within the Light, and all that are within the Light, are within the city; the gates whereof stand open all the day (for there is no night there), that all may come in.