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obey the imperative dictates of truth," says one of the expositors of his creed, "even though the fires of hell were quenched.”
From this principle, of obeying God rather than man, from striving to conform to a perfect law, from attempting to realize in his own life the ideal of a spotless perfection, even as Christ set him an example, and inculcated it as a duty, all his other doctrines received additional confirmation. Show him that absolute non-resistance would probably introduce anarchy, and consign the world to the government of the unprincipled and the base; he would reply that he was not responsible for the evils of society, that the great moral Governor could take care of his own people, and even if all the evils predicted from his course were to take place, these should not interfere with the practice of abstract and eternal duties, that God's absolute commands were not to be set aside for any accumulation of outward evils. But he nevertheless professed to have faith in the power of ideas and truth, although he could not see the manner of their triumph. Hence a lofty faith in God, as the author of truth, was kindled in his soul, which imparted to his character all the elements of a splendid and beautiful enthusiasm. He would be serene in persecution, in tribulation, in obloquy, in death, for God was his friend, and he was an omnipotent preserver. He would work, in accordance with truth, whether he saw results or not. He had nothing to do with them. They would, at some place, or at some time or other, follow necessarily from the seed he had sown, even as industry would produce thrift, in accordance with the uniform operation of immutable laws. It was not man, but the Spirit and truth of God which were to save the world; but whether saved or not, he had done his duty, which itself was a reward. It was not to win heaven merely, it was not to get influence and reputation and honor that be did his duty, but to conform to eternal and immutable principles. Great therefore were the majesty, and beauty, and glory of truth. It was its sublime perfection and reality which transported his soul. To conform to it was the end and highest object of his life, for its own sake, that he might be in harmony with the universe of God and his sublime perfections.
Doctrines so strange, so ethereal, so pure, so elevated were not understood by a wrangling generation contending for forms and ceremonies, immersed in war, devoted to pleasure, struggling to secure the ascendancy of sects, or to extort from selfish kings and priests the blessing of liberty, and those advantages which lead to wealth and political importance. The doctrines were too purely spiritual to be relished. And they seemed to subvert the long-established customs and institutions of society. They seemed to make a mockery of dignities, and laws, and magistrates, and clergymen, of all the ordinances of the church, of all the precedents of former ages, of all the blessinys which men had gained by protracted struggles. They seemed to subvert civilization, to depreciate learning and art, to clog the wheels of government, and undermine respect for the authority which God had established to rule nations and kingdoms. And when these high claims to special divine illumination, to greater Christian perfection, to profounder insight into the oracles of God, and to truer rules of life and duty, were advanced by a man who had never received a liberal education, who was supposed to be illiterate and fanatical, who had arisen from the plebeian class, who had spent his days as an unsuccessful shoemaker and a retired ship hand, absorbed in vain dreams and visions, they seemed absurd, ridiculous, pretentious. At first men were amazed or contemptuous, then they became irritated and enraged. And irritation and contempt were increased when the doctrines of Fox appeared, revolutionizing and threatening to subvert their most cherished principles, for he seemed the very incarnation of a radical, agrarian, destructive spirit. And when Fox and his followers made no compromise, did not seek to conciliate, but commenced a course of unmitigated denunciation, although it was after the fashion of the age, calling the clergy all sorts of names, hirelings, dumb-dogs, the priests of Baal, and their venerable churches steeple-houses of pride, and places of merchandize ; refusing to honor the magistrates and dignitaries of the land by taking off their hats, or rendering them their customary titles ; refusing even the oaths of supremacy to the sovereign of the realm, rebuking with rude familiarity the sins of the great, and even entering the churches at the time of worship and interrupting the officiating minister, thus showing no respect for any tribunal or dignitary or venerated custom, or established law; can we wonder they were prosecuted and imprisoned ? No class of Christians understood them, neither the Episcopalians, nor the Presbyterians, nor the Independents ; no ruler, no judge, no clergyman comprehended them; neither Cromwell, nor Sir Matthew Hale, nor Sir Harry Vane, nor any of the lights of that intensely active age. They only seemed to be the enemies of all sects, of all creeds, of all forms, of all institutions, a most conceited set of men, unpractical, visionary, almost madmen, claiming to be alone right, while all the rest of the world was wrong.
So seemed Fox to the men of his generation, especially the wealthy, the learned and the great. But not so to all the people of his age. It is impossible that any genius, sincere and earnest, should not find followers and friends. It is even impossible for a man to declare absurdity with enthusiasm and audacity and not find apologists, as illustrated by the whole history of error, especially if some great elements of truth are blended with plausible sophistries. And the first disciples will be generally from among the people, who have no pride of reason or of position to sustain, whether truth or error is preached. The history of Fox is an illustration of this fact. The common people, having strong religious wants, and equally strong disgust of what seemed imposture and selfishness, heard him gladly. To them, whenever he had a hearing from them at all, he seemed like an ancient prophet. When they listened to his eloquence, they too felt the fire within. His frame of prayer appeared the most fervent and reverent ever known. His harangue had all the force of inspiration. He seemed possessed of superhuman wisdom. There was no resisting his popular declamation. It had truth enough in it to challenge controversy, while the errors mingled with the truth were so subtle and refined as to baffle their powers of analysis. They could not unravel his sophistries, they were warmed by the ardor of bis zeal. They were flattered by his recognition of their discernment, and stimulated by his appeals to their conscience. They fancied that the Spirit had also enlightened them as to the meaning of the profoundest truths. Glorying in supreme intellectual independence, they could break all the fetters of authority. No hireling priest, no ambitious ruler, no worldy sage should hereafter control their minds. God had emancipated them from all forms of worldly bondage, and they would be bound by no restraints, except what he himself imposed. But all the converts of Fox were not among the poorer classes.
Some men of considerable social position joined his ranks, men who were captivated by novelties, as well as those who loved to contemplate abstract truths, and men who had great logical power as well as intellectual boldness. Among them were James Naylor, William Dewsbury, Francis Howgill, John Audland and Samuel Fisher, who became cele brated preachers. Judge Tell attended their meetings and gave them a shelter. The wife of Justice Benson was so moved that she protested she would eat no meat but what she should eat with George Fox at the bars of the dungeon window. But the most eminent of the converts to the principles of Fox were Robert Barcklay and William Penn. The former was descended from one of the oldest and most respectable families in Scotland, received all the advantage of the most finished education, and early distinguished himself for great attainments. He became one of the most zealous and able defenders that Quakerism ever had ; and was the author of that famous apology, which is still a text-book among the members of the Society. William Penn was still more distinguished for truth and social position, the son of Admiral Sir William Penn who had rendered great services to his country, and whose ample possessions descended to the illustrious founder of Pennsylvania. But no rank or condition could screen the Quakers from persecution, and the illustrious and ignoble equally shared disgrace and suffering. They were imprisoned in the foulest jails, they were whipped in the pillory, they were fined, mutilated and executed. Twice George Fox narrowly escaped 'death. If Cromwell or Charles released him from prison, he was again immured in a filthy and noisome dungeon. When discharged by the judge on account of the illegality of the warrant, he was again indicted. His sufferings were often most intense. He was kept in winter without fire, annoyed by smoke, and exposed to the inclemency of the weather as well as to the filth of prisons. His whole life was a protracted martyrdom. And so of others belonging to his sect, four thousand Quakers died in prison among his own contemporaries. There was no shelter to which
they could fly for protection. The most upright judges in that age showed them no mercy, The most enlightened of juries of that age regarded them às unfit to live. If they sought the wilderness of America they were not safe. If they penetrated even to the most secure retreats where our New England ancestors professed the principles of unbounded toleration, they were still imprisoned, or banished to yet more lonely wilds ; so few there were who could appreciate their doctrines, even among persecuted sectarians ; so slow is man to practice a toleration which, in the abstract, he commends. But all the sufferings and persecution to which the Quakers were subjected were borne in patience. No class of persecuted men ever exhibited, under suffering, more rare and exalted magnanimity. They would pray for their tormentors even when led to execution ; they would seek to convert them while confined in dungeons ; they would declare the plainest truths to them even when seated on the judgment seat of power. Nothing could break their spirit. Nothing could seduce them into resistance or rebellion. They made no combinations to extort their rights. They would take no part with others who fomented treason. Like lambs they were led to the slaughter. Like the first martyrs to the Christian faith, they were serene when heart and flesh do ordinarily fail. They indulged no imprecations on their enemies. They manifested hardly bitterness or animosity. They were indignant, but faithful to their principles of love and non-resistance. Nothing but the most exalted virtues and the most soaring faith could have sustained them in such a general storm of obloquy, hatred and persecution. Nothing could be brought against them but tenacity in adhering to opinions which the world condemned as false, or bold denunciation against those whom they considered to be wicked or tyrannical. For they never ceased to condemn iniquity and sin wherever they beheld it, or to remind the thoughtless and impure of the judgments of the world to come. Never were there more faithful preachers of righteousness, or more stern rebukers of an ungodly world. Never were men more loyal to their consciences, or more consistent followers of the truths which they professed. They seemed to have at heart the spiritual interests of mankind. They were indifferent to wealth and honor. They