Page images

On the 17th of July, 1688, died, at Warwick, in a good age, William Dewsbury, who was early distinguished among the foremost members of this society, by the depth of his religious experience, the eminence of his labors in the ministry, and the severity of bis sufferings. He was first bred to the keeping of sheep, and then was put apprentice to a clothier. In early life he was religiously inclined, and associated with the independents and baptists. In the civil wars he entered into the parliament army, but as he grew more seriously attentive to religious considerations, the recollection of the words of Christ, “ Put up thy sword into the scabbard ; if my kingdom were of this world, then would my servants fight;" affected his mind with a lively conviction of the inconsistency of war with the peaceable gospel of Christ. Under this conviction be left the army, and resumed his trade. When George Fox was at Wakefield, he joined him in fellowship and in the ministry. He travelled much in differents parts of England to promote righteousness, and to propagate what was in his view, divine trath; for which, like his brethren, he met with much personal abuse, and was frequently thrown into prison at various places, at York, Northampton, Exeter, London, and Warwick. In this last place he was detained till the general release by king James. At length bis health and strength were so impaired by the many violent abuses and long imprisonments he had endured, that he was obliged to rest frequently in walking from his house to the meeting place in the same town. A distemper contracted in prison terminated his life. He was seized with a sharp fit of it, when in London to at. tend the yearly meeting, so that he was obliged to return home by short journies; but survived his departure from the city only seventeen days. To some friends who came to visit him, he said, just before he expired ; “ Friends, be faithful, and trust in the Lord your God; for this I can say, I never played the coward, but as joyfully entered prisons as palaces. And in the prison-house I sang praises to my God, and esteemed the bolts and locks put upon me as jewels, and in the name of the eternal God I always got the victory, for they could not keep me any longer than the time determined of him." Continuing his dis

course, be said ; “My departare draws nigh; blessed be God I bave nothing to do but to die, and put off this corruptible and mortal tabernacle, this body of flesh that hath so many infirmities; but the life that dwells in it ascends out of the reach of death, hell, and the grave; and immortality and eternal life is my crown for ever and ever." He concluded in prayer to the Lord for all his people every where, especially for the friends then assembled in London, reaping the present reward of his fidelity, patience, and sincerity, in peaceful tenor of his mind, and looking death in the face, not only without terror, but with an holy triumph over its power.*

The history of this society has, with an impartial and commendable disregard to the distinction of sex, made bonorable mention of those women to whose piety and zeal it was indebted. One of these, at this period, was Rebecca Travis, born 1609, who had received a religious education, and was a zealous professor among the baptists. In the year 165+, prompted by curiosity, but possessed with strong prejudices against the quakers, as a people in the North remarkable for simplicity and rusticity of beba. vior, a worship strangely different from all others, and a strenuous opposition to all public teachers ; she attended a public disputation between James Naylor, then in Londou, and the baptists ; in which it appeared to her, he had the advantage, by close and powerful replies, over his learned antagonists. This excited her desire to hear him in the exercise of his ministry ; she had soon an opportunity of gratifying her wishes; and the result was, that from that time she attended the meetings of this people, and after some time labored herself in the ministry among them, in London and its neighborhood. The impressions made on her mind by the preaching of Naylor, and her observation of his circumspect conduct, engaged her affectionate esteem for bim, and she cheerfully administered every charitable service in her power to his relief under bis grievous sufferings ; though she was a woman of too much discretion and stability in religion to carry ber regard beyond its proper limits, or to such extravagant lengihs as those weak people who contributed to his down

* Gough, vol. iii. p. 228-228.

fall. She had the character of a discreet and virtuous woman, much employed in acts of charity and beneficence; of sympathetic tenderness towards the afflicted, and therefore one of the first of those faithful women to whom the care of the poor, the sick, and the imprisoned members of the commfunity, was assigned; this care, in conjunction with others, she religiously discharged. After a long life of virtuous and charitable deeds, she died in much peace, on the 15th of July, 1688, in the eightieth year of her age.*

Another of these women, who was esteemed an ornament to her profession, and who undauntedly suffered, when it fell to her lot, was Ann Downer, first married to Benjamin Greenwell, a grocer in Bishopsgate-street, and then to the celebrated George Whitehead.

She was one of the first who received the doctrine of the quakers, when its ministers came to London, and at length became a preacher of it. In 1656 she was sent for to attend George Fox and bis fellow-prisoners at Launceston, and travelled thither on foot, two hundred miles; on her journey she was in. strumental to bring many over to the doctrine she published, some of whom were persons of account in the world. In 1658 she travelled in the southern counties, and the Isle of Wight. She was remarkably conspicuous in her day for her singular piety, benevolence and charity, spending much of her time in visiting the poor, the imprisoned, the sick, the fatherless, and widows in their affliction ; and in ber exertions to do good had few equals. She died on the 27th of August, 1686, aged sixty-three, expressing to her friends, who visited her, the sentiments of resignation and lively hope, and leaving impressions of affectionate regard to her memory in the hearts of many, whom she had belped by her charitable services.

* Gough, vol. iii. p. 219, 223.

+ Id. p. 183, 185.

[merged small][merged small][ocr errors][merged small][merged small][merged small][ocr errors][merged small]

THE REVOLUTION is the grand event, in which the affecting and interesting scenes and transactions of the preceding periods, from the Reformation to the accession of William III. happily and gloriously close. Here the strug. gles of the several parties have their termination ; and though the episcopal form of church-government obtains at last an establishment and permanent pre-eminence, yet that superiority is made easy to the other parties, by the security to their respective religious professions, and by the equality among themselves, which they enjoy by the ACT of TOLERATION. Here the reader pauses with pleasure and hope; humanity rejoices, that there is a period to the animosities and calamities that had torn and afflicted this country nearly a century and half, and the prospects of better times opens before the wearied mind. The history, through which he has been led, by its various details, giveth him a strong impression of the importance and happiness of the æra to which he is at length arrived. Here despotism bath drawn its last breath ; here religious liberty commenceth its reign : royal prerogative bows and yields to the voice of the people; and conscience feels itself, though not eptirely emancipated, yet walking at large and breathing the

open air.

Our author's narrative affords convincing and satisfactory proofs of the importance and felicity of the new state of things to which it brings us. But yet some considerations, arising from facts not mentioned by him, may be properly presented to the reader, to heighten his sense of the deliverance effected by the Revolution. Two siugular doctrines had been industriously disseminated; viz. “ That


263 there was no such thing as passive obedience for the cause of religion; and that kings are so far infallible, as that what religion they establish is the true worship of God in their dominion.” To insinuate more universally and effectually these sentiments, they were inserted, and enlarged upon in the common almanacks.* No doubt can remain concerning the design of James 11. from a review of the measures he actually executed ; and yet it is useful and interesting to bring forward the secret councils from whence those measures flowed, and to exhibit the systematical plan, for which, if they were not parts of it, and first attempts at the execution of it, they were evidently calculated to prepare the way.

Sometime before the abdication of James, “a Memori. al” was presented to him, drawn up by a jesuit, and exhib. iting the methods he should pursue, not only to root out the protestant religion, but to prevent even the possibility of its revival. 'The great outlines of the scheme were, “that a council of reformation should be established, which avoiding the name, as odious and offensive at the beginning, should pursue some good and sound manner of IN. QUISITION ; nay, should order, in divers points, according to the diligent and exact proceedings of the court of inquisition in Spain :-that the authority of the churcb should take place of the king's authority, and the civil powers be subjected to the ecclesiastical:-that the state of the catholic religion, and the succession of the crown, should be so linked together, that one might depend on and be the as. surance of the other:—that new ways of choosing parliaments should be followed, particularly one very extraordinary, viz. that the bishop of the diocese should judge conceroing the knights of the shire, and as they were thought fit to serve in parliament by sach bishops or not, so they were to confirm the election or have a negative voice in it. The catholic prince, whom God should send, is represented as being well able to procure such a parliament as he would have. Many new laws were to be made, that should quite alter the whole constitution ; but it was to be made treason for ever, for any man to propose any thing for change of the catholic Roman faith, when it was once settled. As

Crosby's History of the Baptists, vol. iii. p. 88.

« PreviousContinue »