A Visit to Oliver Cromwell 1653-1654
About this time the priests and professors fell to prophesying against us afresh. They had said long before that we should be destroyed within a month; and after that, they prolonged the time to half a year. But that time being long expired, and we mightily increased in number, they now gave forth that we would eat out one another. For often after meetings many tender people, having a great way to go, tarried at Friends’ houses by the way, and sometimes more than there were beds to lodge in; so that some lay on the hay-mows. Hereupon Cain’s fear possessed the professors and world’s people; for they were afraid that when we had eaten one another out, we should all come to be maintained by the parishes, and be chargeable to them.
But after awhile, when they saw that the Lord blessed and increased Friends, as he did Abraham, both in the field and in the basket, at their goings forth and their comings in, at their risings up and their lyings down, and that all things prospered with them; then they saw the falseness of all their prophecies against us, and that it was in vain to curse whom God had blessed.
At the first convincement, when Friends could not put off their hats to people, or say You to a single person, but Thou and Thee; — when they could not bow, or use flattering words in salutation, or adopt the fashions and customs of the world, many Friends, that were tradesmen of several sorts, lost their customers at first, for the people were shy of them, and would not trade with them; so that for a time some Friends could hardly get money enough to buy bread.
But afterwards, when people came to have experience of Friends’ honesty and faithfulness, and found that their yea was yea, and their nay was nay; that they kept to a word in their dealings, and would not cozen and cheat, but that if a child were sent to their shops for anything, he was as well used as his parents would have been; — then the lives and conversation of Friends did preach, and reached to the witness of God in the people.
Then things altered so, that all the inquiry was, “Where is there a draper, or shop-keeper, or tailor, or shoemaker, or any other tradesman, that is a Quaker?” Insomuch that Friends had more trade than many of their neighbours, and if there was any trading, they had a great part of it. Then the envious professors altered their note, and began to cry out, “If we let these Quakers alone, they will take the trade of the nation out of our hands.”
This has been the Lord’s doing to and for His people! which my desire is that all who profess His holy truth may be kept truly sensible of, and that all may be preserved in and by His power and Spirit, faithful to God and man. Faithful first to God, in obeying Him in all things; and next in doing unto all men that which is just and righteous in all things, that the Lord God maybe glorified in their practising truth, holiness, godliness, and righteousness amongst people in all their lives and conversation.
While Friends abode in the northern parts, a priest of Wrexham, in Wales, named Morgan Floyd, having heard reports concerning us, sent two of his congregation into the north to inquire concerning us, to try us, and bring him an account of us. When these triers came amongst us, the power of the Lord seized on them, and they were both convinced of the truth. So they stayed some time with us, and then returned to Wales; where afterwards one of them departed from his convincement; but the other, named John-ap-John, abode in the truth, and received a part in the ministry, in which he continued faithful.
About this time the oath or engagement to Oliver Cromwell was tendered to the soldiers, many of whom were disbanded because, in obedience to Christ, they could not swear. John Stubbs, for one, who was convinced when I was in Carlisle prison, became a good soldier in the Lamb’s war, and a faithful minister of Christ Jesus; travelling much in the service of the Lord in Holland, Ireland, Scotland, Italy, Egypt, and America. And the Lord’s power preserved him from the hands of the papists, though many times he was in great danger of the Inquisition. But some of the soldiers, who had been convinced in their judgment, but had not come into obedience to the Truth, took Oliver Cromwell’s oath; and, going afterwards into Scotland, and coming before a garrison there, the garrison, thinking they had been enemies, fired at them, and killed diverse of them, which was a sad event.
When the churches were settled in the north, and Friends were established under Christ’s teaching, and the glory of the Lord shined over them, I passed from Swarthmore to Lancaster about the beginning of the year 1654, visiting Friends, till I came to Synder-hill green, where a meeting had been appointed three weeks before. We passed through Halifax, a rude town of professors, and came to Thomas Taylor’s, who had been a captain, where we met with some janglers; but the Lord’s power was over all; for I travelled in the motion of God’s power.
When I came to Synder-hill green, there was a mighty meeting. Some thousands of people, as it was judged, were there, and many persons of note, captains and other officers. There was a general convincement; for the Lord’s power and Truth was set over all, and there was no opposition.
About this time did the Lord move upon the spirits of many whom He had raised up and sent forth to labour in His vineyard, to travel southwards, and spread themselves in the service of the gospel to the eastern, southern, and western parts of the nation. Francis Howgill and Edward Burrough went to London; John Camm and John Audland to Bristol; Richard Hubberthorn and George Whitehead towards Norwich; Thomas Holmes into Wales; and many others different ways: for above sixty ministers had the Lord raised up, and did now send abroad out of the north country. The sense of their service was very weighty upon me.
About this time Rice Jones, of Nottingham, (who had been a Baptist, and was turned Ranter), and his company, began to prophesy against me; giving out that I was then at the highest, and that after that time I should fall down as fast. He sent a bundle of railing papers from Nottingham to Mansfield Clawson, and the towns thereabouts, judging Friends for declaring the Truth in the markets and in steeple-houses; which papers I answered. But his and his company’s prophecies came upon themselves; for soon after they fell to pieces, and many of his followers became Friends, and continued so.
And through the Lord’s blessed power, Truth and Friends have increased, and do increase in the increase of God: and I, by the same power, have been and am preserved, and kept in the everlasting Seed, that never fell, nor changes. But Rice Jones took the oaths that were put to him, and so disobeyed the command of Christ.
Many such false prophets have risen up against me, but the Lord hath blasted them, and will blast all who rise against the blessed Seed, and me in that. My confidence is in the Lord; for I saw their end, and how the Lord would confound them, before He sent me forth.
I travelled up and down in Yorkshire, as far as Holderness, and to the land’s end that way, visiting Friends and the churches of Christ; which were finely settled under Christ’s teaching. At length I came to Captain Bradford’s house, whither came many Ranters from York to wrangle; but they were confounded and stopped. Thither came also she who was called the Lady Montague, who was then convinced, and lived and died in the Truth.
Thence I went to Drayton in Leicestershire to visit my relations. As soon as I was come in, Nathaniel Stephens, the priest, having got another priest, and given notice to the country, sent to me to come to them, for they could not do anything till I came. Having been three years away from my relations, I knew nothing of their design. But at last I went into the steeple-house yard, where the two priests were; and they had gathered abundance of people.
When I came there, they would have had me go into the steeple-house. I asked them what I should do there; and they said that Mr. Stephens could not bear the cold. I told them he might bear it as well as I. At last we went into a great hall, Richard Farnsworth being with me; and a great dispute we had with these priests concerning their practices, how contrary they were to Christ and His apostles.
The priests would know where tithes were forbidden or ended. I showed them out of the seventh chapter to the Hebrews that not only tithes, but the priesthood that took tithes, was ended; and the law by which the priesthood was made, and tithes were commanded to be paid, was ended and annulled. Then the priests stirred up the people to some lightness and rudeness.
I had known Stephens from a child, therefore I laid open his condition, and the manner of his preaching; and how he, like the rest of the priests, did apply the promises to the first birth, which must die. But I showed that the promises were to the Seed, not to many seeds, but to one Seed, Christ; who was one in male and female; for all were to be born again before they could enter into the kingdom of God.
Then he said, I must not judge so; but I told him that He that was spiritual judged all things. Then he confessed that that was a full Scripture; “but, neighbours,” said he, “this is the business; George Fox is come to the light of the sun, and now he thinks to put out my star-light.”
I told him that I would not quench the least measure of God in any, much less put out his star-light, if it were true star-light — light from the Morning Star. But, I told him, if he had anything from Christ or God, he ought to speak it freely, and not take tithes from the people for preaching, seeing that Christ commanded His ministers to give freely, as they had received freely. So I charged him to preach no more for tithes or any hire. But he said he would not yield to that.
After a while the people began to be vain and rude, so we broke up; yet some were made loving to the Truth that day. Before we parted I told them that if the Lord would, I intended to be at the town again that day week. In the interim I went into the country, and had meetings, and came thither again that day week.
Against that time this priest had got seven priests to help him; for priest Stephens had given notice at a lecture on a market-day at Adderston, that such a day there would be a meeting and a dispute with me. I knew nothing of it; but had only said I should be in town that day week again. These eight priests had gathered several hundreds of people, even most of the country thereabouts, and they would have had me go into the steeple-house; but I would not go in, but got on a hill, and there spoke to them and the people.
There were with me Thomas Taylor, who had been a priest, James Parnell, and several other Friends. The priests thought that day to trample down Truth; but the Truth overcame them. Then they grew light, and the people rude; and the priests would not stand trial with me; but would be contending here a little and there a little, with one Friend or another. At last one of the priests brought his son to dispute with me; but his mouth was soon stopped. When he could not tell how to answer, he would ask his father; and his father was confounded also, when he came to answer for his son.
So, after they had toiled themselves, they went away in a rage to priest Stephens’s house to drink. As they went away, I said, “I never came to a place where so many priests together would not stand the trial with me.” Thereupon they and some of their wives came about me, laid hold of me, and fawningly said, “What might you not have been, if it had not been for the Quakers! ”
Then they began to push Friends to and fro, to thrust them from me, and to pluck me to themselves. After a while several lusty fellows came, took me up in their arms, and carried me into the steeple-house porch, intending to carry me into the steeple-house by force; but the door being locked they fell down in a heap, having me under them. As soon as I could, I got up from under them, and went to the hill again. Then they took me from that place to the steeple-house wall, and set me on something like a stool; and all the priests being come back, stood under with the people.
The priests cried, “Come, to argument, to argument.” I said that I denied all their voices, for they were the voices of hirelings and strangers. They cried, “Prove it, prove it.” Then I directed them to the tenth of John, where they might see what Christ said of such. He declared that He was the true Shepherd that laid down His life for His sheep, and His sheep heard His voice and followed Him; but the hireling would fly when the wolf came, because he was a hireling. I offered to prove that they were such hirelings. Then the priests plucked me off the stool again; and they themselves got all upon stools under the steeple-house wall.
Then I felt the mighty power of God arise over all, and I told them that if they would but give audience, and hear me quietly, I would show them by the Scriptures why I denied those eight priests, or teachers, that stood before me, and all the hireling teachers of the world whatsoever; and I would give them Scriptures for what I said. Whereupon both priests and people consented. Then I showed them out of the prophets Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Micah, Malachi, and others, that they were in the steps of such as God sent His true prophets to cry against.
When I appealed to that of God in their consciences, the Light of Christ Jesus in them, they could not abide to hear it. They had been all quiet before; but then a professor said, “George, what! wilt thou never have done?” I told him I should have done shortly. I went on a little longer, and cleared myself of them in the Lord’s power. When I had done, all the priests and people stood silent for a time.
At last one of the priests said that they would read the Scriptures I had quoted. I told them I desired them to do so with all my heart. They began to read the twenty-third of Jeremiah, where they saw the marks of the false prophets that he cried against. When they had read a verse or two I said, “Take notice, people”; but the priests said, “Hold thy tongue, George.” I bade them read the whole chapter, for it was all against them. Then they stopped, and would read no further.
My father, though a hearer and follower of the priest, was so well satisfied that he struck his cane upon the ground, and said, “Truly, I see that he that will but stand to the truth, it will bear him out.”
After this I went into the country, had several meetings, and came to Swannington, where the soldiers came; but the meeting was quiet, the Lord’s power was over all, and the soldiers did not meddle.
Then I went to Leicester; and from Leicester to Whetstone. There came about seventeen troopers of Colonel Hacker’s regiment, with his marshal, and took me up before the meeting, though Friends were beginning to gather together; for there were several Friends from diverse parts. I told the marshal he might let all the Friends go; that I would answer for them all. Thereupon he took me, and let all the Friends go; only Alexander Parker went along with me.
At night they had me before Colonel Hacker, his major, and captains, a great company of them; and a great deal of discourse we had about the priests, and about meetings; for at this time there was a noise of a plot against Oliver Cromwell. Much reasoning I had with them about the Light of Christ, which enlighteneth every man that cometh into the world. Colonel Hacker asked whether it was not this Light of Christ that made Judas betray his Master, and afterwards led him to hang himself? I told him, “No; that was the spirit of darkness, which hated Christ and His Light.”
Then Colonel Hacker said I might go home, and keep at home, and not go abroad to meetings. I told him I was an innocent man, free from plots, and denied all such work. His son Needham said, “Father, this man hath reigned too long; it is time to have him cut off.” I asked him, “For what? What have I done? Whom have I wronged? I was bred and born in this country, and who can accuse me of any evil, from childhood up?” Colonel Hacker asked me again if I would go home, and stay at home. I told him that if I should promise him this, it would manifest that I was guilty of something, to make my home a prison; and if I went to meetings they would say I broke their order. Therefore I told them I should go to meetings as the Lord should order me, and could not submit to their requirings; but I said we were a peaceable people.
“Well, then,” said Colonel Hacker, “I will send you to-morrow morning by six o’clock to my Lord Protector, by Captain Drury, one of his life-guard.”
That night I was kept prisoner at the Marshalsea; and the next morning by the sixth hour I was delivered to Captain Drury. I desired that he would let me speak with Colonel Hacker before I went; and he took me to his bedside. Colonel Hacker again admonished me to go home, and keep no more meetings. I told him I could not submit to that; but must have my liberty to serve God, and to go to meetings. “Then,” said he, “you must go before the Protector.” Thereupon I kneeled at his bedside, and besought the Lord to forgive him; for he was as Pilate, though he would wash his hands; and I bade him remember, when the day of his misery and trial should come upon him, what I had said to him. But he was stirred up and set on by Stephens, and the other priests and professors, wherein their envy and baseness was manifest. When they could not overcome me by disputes and arguments, nor resist the Spirit of the Lord that was in me, they got soldiers to take me up.
Afterwards, when Colonel Hacker was imprisoned in London, a day or two before his execution, he was put in mind of what he had done against the innocent; and he remembered it, and confessed it to Margaret Fell, saying he knew well whom she meant; and he had trouble upon him for it.
Now I was carried up a prisoner by Captain Drury from Leicester; and when we came to Harborough he asked me if I would go home and stay a fortnight? I should have my liberty, he said, if I would not go to, nor keep meetings. I told him I could not promise any such thing. Several times upon the road did he ask and try me after the same manner, and still I gave him the same answers. So he brought me to London, and lodged me at the Mermaid over against the Mews at Charing-Cross.
As we travelled I was moved of the Lord to warn people at the inns and places where I came of the day of the Lord that was coming upon them. William Dewsbury and Marmaduke Storr being in prison at Northampton, Captain Drury let me go and visit them.
After Captain Drury had lodged me at the Mermaid, he left me there, and went to give the Protector an account of me. When he came to me again, he told me that the Protector required that I should promise not to take up a carnal sword or weapon against him or the government, as it then was, and that I should write it in what words I saw good, and set my hand to it. I said little in reply to Captain Drury.
The next morning I was moved of the Lord to write a paper to the Protector, Oliver Cromwell; wherein I did, in the presence of the Lord God, declare that I denied the wearing or drawing of a carnal sword, or any other outward weapon, against him or any man; and that I was sent of God to stand a witness against all violence, and against the works of darkness; and to turn people from darkness to light; and to bring them from the causes of war and fighting, to the peaceable gospel. When I had written what the Lord had given me to write, I set my name to it, and gave it to Captain Drury to hand to Oliver Cromwell, which he did.
After some time Captain Drury brought me before the Protector himself at Whitehall. It was in a morning, before he was dressed, and one Harvey, who had come a little among Friends, but was disobedient, waited upon him. When I came in I was moved to say, “Peace be in this house”; and I exhorted him to keep in the fear of God, that he might receive wisdom from Him, that by it he might be directed, and order all things under his hand to God’s glory.
l spoke much to him of Truth, and much discourse I had with him about religion; wherein he carried himself very moderately. But he said we quarrelled with priests, whom he called ministers. I told him I did not quarrel with them, but that they quarrelled with me and my friends. “But,” said I, “if we own the prophets, Christ, and the apostles, we cannot hold up such teachers, prophets, and shepherds, as the prophets, Christ, and the apostles declared against; but we must declare against them by the same power and Spirit.”
Then I showed him that the prophets, Christ, and the apostles declared freely, and against them that did not declare freely; such as preached for filthy lucre, and divined for money, and preached for hire, and were covetous and greedy, that could never have enough; and that they that have the same spirit that Christ, and the prophets, and the apostles had, could not but declare against all such now, as they did then. As I spoke, he several times said, it was very good, and it was truth. I told him that all Christendom (so called) had the Scriptures, but they wanted the power and Spirit that those had who gave forth the Scriptures; and that was the reason they were not in fellowship with the Son, nor with the Father, nor with the Scriptures, nor one with another.
Many more words I had with him; but people coming in, I drew a little back. As I was turning, he caught me by the hand, and with tears in his eyes said, “Come again to my house; for if thou and I were but an hour of a day together, we should be nearer one to the other”; adding that he wished me no more ill than he did to his own soul. I told him if he did he wronged his own soul; and admonished him to hearken to God’s voice, that he might stand in his counsel, and obey it; and if he did so, that would keep him from hardness of heart; but if he did not hear God’s voice, his heart would be hardened. He said it was true.
Then I went out; and when Captain Drury came out after me he told me the Lord Protector had said I was at liberty, and might go whither I would.
Then I was brought into a great hall, where the Protector’s gentlemen were to dine. I asked them what they brought me thither for. They said it was by the Protector’s order, that I might dine with them. I bid them let the Protector know that I would not eat of his bread, nor drink of his drink. When he heard this he said, “Now I see there is a people risen that I cannot win with gifts or honours, offices or places; but all other sects and people I can.” It was told him again that we had forsaken our own possessions; and were not like to look for such things from him.
Being set at liberty, I went to the inn where Captain Drury at first lodged me. This captain, though he sometimes carried it fairly, was an enemy to me and to Truth, and opposed it. When professors came to me, while I was under his custody, and he was by, he would scoff at trembling, and call us Quakers, as the Independents and Presbyterians had nicknamed us before. But afterwards he came and told me that, as he was lying on his bed to rest himself in the daytime, a sudden trembling seized on him; that his joints knocked together, and his body shook so that he could not rise from his bed. He was so shaken that he had not strength enough left to rise. But he felt the power of the Lord was upon him; and he tumbled off his bed, and cried to the Lord, and said he would never speak more against the Quakers, such as trembled at the word of God.
During the time I was prisoner at Charing-Cross, there came abundance to see me, almost of all sorts, priests, professors, officers of the army, etc. Once a company of officers, being with me, desired me to pray with them. I sat still, with my mind retired to the Lord. At last I felt the power and Spirit of God move in me; and the Lord’s power did so shake and shatter them that they wondered, though they did not live in it.
Among those that came was Colonel Packer, with several of his officers. While they were with me, there came in one Cob, and a great company of Ranters with him. The Ranters began to call for drink and tobacco; but I desired them to forbear it in my room, telling them if they had such a mind to it, they might go into another room. One of them cried, “All is ours”; and another of them said, “All is well.” I replied, “How is all well, while thou art so peevish envious, and crabbed?” for I saw he was of a peevish nature. I spake to their conditions, and they were sensible of it, and looked one upon another, wondering.
Then Colonel Packer began to talk with a light, chaffy mind, concerning God, and Christ, and the Scriptures. It was a great grief to my soul and spirit when I heard him talk so lightly; so that I told him he was too light to talk of the things of God, for he did not know the solidity of a man. Thereupon the officers raged, and were wroth that I should speak so of their colonel.
This Packer was a Baptist, and he and the Ranters bowed and scraped to one another very much; for it was the manner of the Ranters to be exceedingly complimentary (as they call it), so that Packer bade them give over their compliments. But I told them they were fit to go together, for they were both of one spirit.
This Colonel Packer lived at Theobald’s, near Waltham, and was made a justice of the peace. He set up a great meeting of the Baptists at Theobald’s Park; for he and some other officers had purchased it. They were exceedingly high, and railed against Friends and Truth, and threatened to apprehend me with their warrants if ever I came there.
Yet after I was set at liberty, I was moved of the Lord God to go down to Theobald’s, and appoint a meeting hard by them; to which many of his people came, and diverse of his hearers were convinced of the way of Truth, and received Christ, the free teacher, and came off from the Baptist; and that made him rage the more. But the Lord’s power came over him, so that he had not power to meddle with me.
Then I went to Waltham, close by him, and had a meeting there; but the people were very rude, and gathered about the house and broke the windows. Thereupon I went out to them, with the Bible in my hand, and desired them to come in; and told them that I would show them Scripture both for our principles and practices. When I had done so, I showed them also that their teachers were in the steps of such as the prophets, and Christ, and the apostles testified against. Then I directed them to the Light of Christ and Spirit of God in their own hearts, that by it they might come to know their free teacher, the Lord Jesus Christ.
The meeting being ended, they went away quieted and satisfied, and a meeting hath since been settled in that town. But this was some time after I was set at liberty by Oliver Cromwell.
When I came from Whitehall to the Mermaid at Charing-Cross, I stayed not long there, but went into the city of London, where we had great and powerful meetings. So great were the throngs of people that I could hardly get to and from the meetings for the crowds; and the Truth spread exceedingly. Thomas Aldam, and Robert Craven, who had been sheriff of London, and many Friends, came up to London after me; but Alexander Parker abode with me.
After a while I went to Whitehall again, and was moved to declare the day of the Lord amongst them, and that the Lord was come to teach His people Himself. So I preached Truth, both to the officers, and to them that were called Oliver’s gentlemen, who were of his guard. But a priest opposed while I was declaring the Word of the Lord amongst them; for Oliver had several priests about him, of which this was his newsmonger, an envious priest, and a light, scornful, chaffy man. I bade him repent, and he put it in his newspaper the next week that I had been at Whitehall and had bidden a godly minister there to repent.
When I went thither again I met with him; and abundance of people gathered about me. I manifested the priest to be a liar in several things that he had affirmed; and he was put to silence. He put in the news that I wore silver buttons; which was false, for they were but alchemy. Afterwards he put in the news that I hung ribands on people’s arms, which made them follow me. This was another of his lies, for I never used nor wore ribands in my life.
Three Friends went to examine this priest, that gave forth this false intelligence, and to know of him where he had had that information. He said it was a woman that told him so, and that if they would come again he would tell them the woman’s name. When they came again he said it was a man, but would not tell them his name then, but said that if they would come again he would tell them his name and where he lived.
They went the third time; and then he would not say who told him; but offered, if I would give it under my hand that there was no such thing he would put that into the news. Thereupon the Friends carried it to him under my hand; but when they came he broke his promise, and would not put it in: but was in a rage, and threatened them with the constable.
This was the deceitful doing of this forger of lies; and these lies he spread over the nation in the news, to render Truth odious and to put evil into people’s minds against Friends and Truth; of which a more large account may be seen in a book printed soon after this time, for the clearing of Friends and Truth from the slanders and false reports raised and cast upon them.
These priests, the newsmongers, were of the Independent sect, like them in Leicester; but the Lord’s power came over all their lies, and swept them away; and many came to see the naughtiness of these priests. The God of heaven carried me over all in His power, and His blessed power went over the nation; insomuch that many Friends about this time were moved to go up and down to sound forth the everlasting gospel in most parts of this nation, and also in Scotland; and the glory of the Lord was felt over all, to His everlasting praise.
A great convincement there was in London; some in the Protector’s house and family. I went to see him again, but could not get to him, the officers were grown so rude.