The Missing Cross to Purity

The Christian Progress

of George Whitehead

Part VII Continued

The Great London Plague of 1665 - Black Death -
Whitehead fearlessly returns to London
to minister to the dying Quakers.

It was observable as well as memorable, that as the rulers in those days were often warned of the impending judgments of God, if they would not stop their persecutions, as when they were making haste to have us banished out of the land, and especially out of the city of London and the suburbs, in the years 1664 and 1665, and for that end the jails were often crowded, resulting in many innocent persons dying. God was pleased even then, in the year 1665, to hasten his heavy judgment and sad calamity of the great plague or raging pestilence upon the city, and some other places in the land, by which many thousands of the inhabitants died; sometimes more than six thousand in a week, of all sorts, both of good and evil men and women, besides innocent children. The calamity was common, the righteous and the good were taken away from the evil to come, though it went ill with the wicked, who for all this would not return to the Lord; neither would the cruel persecutors repent of their abominable cruelties; but persisted disturbing our meetings and imprisoning, until they were frightened with the plague. Even during its prevalence, many of our innocent friends were confined in jails; which seemed no small piece of barbarity and inhumanity, especially when the contagion so greatly prevailed in the city. I have told some persons in authority of this cruelty, to show what mercy their church had showed us, and that men of moderation or any compassion would be ashamed.

From Britain Express regarding the London Plague of 1665:

The Black Death. In the year 1665 death came calling on the city of London. Death in the form of plague. People called it the Black Death, black for the color of the tell-tale lumps that foretold its presence in a victim's body, and death for the inevitable result. The plague germs were carried by fleas which lived as parasites on rats. Although it had first appeared in Britain in 1348, the islands were never totally free of plague, but it was like an unpleasant possibility that people just learned to live with while they got on with their business. This time it was different.

In 1663 plague ravaged Holland. Charles II forbade any trade with the Dutch, partly out of wise concern, and partly because his realm was engaged in a fierce trade war with Holland which eventually erupted into armed conflict. Despite the precautions, the early spring of 1665 brought a sudden rise in the death rate in the poorer sections of London. The authorities ignored it. As spring turned into one of the hottest summers in memory, the number of deaths escalated and panic set in.

The rich flee. The nobility left the city for their estates in the country. They were followed by the merchants, and the lawyers. The Inns of Court were deserted. Most of the clergy suddenly decided they could best minister to their flocks from far, far away. The College of Surgeons fled to the country, which did not stop several of its members from writing learned papers about the disease they had been at such pains to avoid. The court moved to Hampton Court Palace.

The gates are closed. By June the roads were clogged with people desperate to escape London. The Lord Mayor responded by closing the gates to anyone who did not have a certificate of health. These certificates became a currency more valuable than gold, and a thriving market in forged certificates grew up.

Desperate Measures. By mid July over 1,000 deaths per week were reported in the city. It was rumored that dogs and cats spread the disease, so the Lord Mayor ordered all the dogs and cats destroyed. Author Daniel Defoe in his Journal of the Plague Years estimated that 40,000 dogs and 200,000 cats were killed. The real effect of this was that there were fewer natural enemies of the rats who carried the plague fleas, so the germs spread more rapidly.

Anyone in constant contact with plague victims, such as doctors, nurses, inspectors, were compelled to carry colored staffs outdoors so that they could be easily seen and avoided. When one person in a house caught the plague the house was sealed until 40 days after the victim either recovered or died (usually the latter). Guards were posted at the door to see that no one got out. The guard had to be bribed to allow any food to be passed to the inmates. It was not unknown for families to break through the walls of the house to escape, and in several cases they carefully lowered a noose over the guard's head from an attic window and hung him so they could get away.

Lethal letters? Londoners were shunned when they managed to escape the city. Even letters from the capital were treated as if they were poisonous. Letters were variously scraped, heated, soaked, aired, and pressed flat to eliminate "pestilential matter."

The Plague peaks. Throughout the summer the death rate escalated, reaching a high of over 6,000 per week in August. From there the disease slowly, oh so painfully slowly, receded until winter, though it was not until February of 1666 that King Charles thought it safe to return to the city. How many died? It is hard to say, for the official records of that time were patchy at best. The best guess is that over 100,000 people perished in and around London, though the figure may have been much higher.

Heroism in the midst of horror. One footnote to this tale of horror. The plague broke out in the village of Eyam in Derbyshire, brought on a shipment of old clothes sent from London. The villagers, led by their courageous clergyman, realized that the only way to stop the spread of the plague to surrounding villages was to voluntarily quarantine the village, refusing to leave until the plague had run its course. This they did, though the cost was 259 dead out of a total of 292 inhabitants. Each year this heroic event is commemorated by the Plague Sunday Service in Eyam.

From Valiant for the Truth:

As the early months of the year passed, there came from city and hamlet a deep cry of terror, "The plague has broken out." Amid the festivities of the court there walked an unbidden guest, carrying fear and anguish into many hearts. Ruthlessly laying his hand alike on rich and poor, young and old, his path was strewn with his victims, which in five months were estimated at one hundred thousand.

Business in London was neglected, the merchant left his store and went home to die, the artisan ceased his work, the King and his courtiers fled to Oxford, and half the houses in the city were marked with the ominous tablet, "The Lord have mercy on us." Grass grew in the populous streets except on those which led to the grave-yards, and the busy hum of life and pleasure gave place to the mournful trappings of death and woe. At first the interments were only at night, but the number of deaths increased so rapidly, that the hoarse call was heard at all hours, "Bring out your dead."

"How sunk the inmost heart of all,
As rolled the dead-cart slowly by,
With creaking wheel, and harsh hoof fall,
The dying turned him to the wall
To hear it, and to die."

But notwithstanding this fearful visitation the persecution of the non-conformists proceeded with unrelenting vigor, and the Five Mile Act was introduced and passed at Oxford. In the preamble to this bill it was declared, that "the non-conformist ministers instilled principles of schism and rebellion into the people." The bill enacted that it should be penal for "any non-conformist minister to teach in a school, or come within five miles (except as a traveler in passing) of any city, borough, or corporate town, or any place whatever, in which he had preached or taught, since the passing of the Act of Uniformity, before he has subscribed to the aforementioned oath, before a magistrate, etc., under a penalty of £40." One third of this sum was to be paid to the informer. Though this law was ostensibly aimed at the clergy of the Presbyterians, Baptists, and Independents, it was nevertheless principally made use of in distressing Friends.

The committals to Newgate continued until the plague broke out within its walls, when the King, urged by the physicians, ordered that no more persons should be sent there. Within those dreary walls there was much suffering endured, however, with a truly christian spirit. The following testimony is borne by George Whitehead, who remained in London during this terrible season to minister to the comfort of his imprisoned brethren: "When sorrow and sadness have seized upon my spirit, at their sad sufferings, this has refreshed me, that Christ their salvation and redemption was manifest to and in them. With such to live was Christ, even in this state, and to die was gain, it being through death, that the Lord had appointed the final deliverance of many from the cruelties and rod of their oppressors."

The King one day inquired whether, “any Quakers had died of the distemper?" An affirmative reply induced him to say, "Then they can't say that the plague is a punishment sent for their enemies, because of having imprisoned them, when they are dying of it themselves." But the Puritan idea of the national punishment for national sins was not extinct in England, and many besides Friends, mourning over the sins and corruption of the day, saw in this calamity the visitation of an offended God.

The widows and orphans whose homes were rendered desolate by the plague, now claimed the attention of the Society always ready to assist their suffering companions. A number of Friends, both men and women, devoted themselves to the work of administering relief, holding regular meetings once a week, and devising means of meeting the need of the cases presented. Those residing in the country contributed of their substance, and also gave their personal service.

I well remember, that having some times of respite between my imprisonments before the sickness in London, I traveled to visit our friends in the country, and sometimes into the northern counties, and near the beginning of that summer of 1665, when the pestilence had begun in London, I was in the county of Surrey, and having a meeting at John Smith's house at Worplesdon, his brother Stephen Smith and his wife came to the meeting. Stephen and his wife were convinced of the truth, which the Lord enabled me to declare to demonstrate in the life at that time, as at many others. And the Lord having laid upon me to come to London, as I signified to some friends present, after the meeting, Stephen questioned how I could venture to come to London, seeing the plague had then broken out there. I gave account of my submission to the will of God, and of my faith and trust in him for preservation; upon which Stephen appeared more satisfied and confirmed in the belief of the truth, as he testified at that meeting.

I soon come to London, and my lodging was at the house of William Travers, a tobacconist in Watling street, who with his wife Rebecca, kindly received and hosted me, as did also her sister Mary Booth, who lived with her, and the whole family were loving to me and friends. And the Lord preserved that family, that none of them were infected with the pestilence, though it greatly increased, with its death, so that in a few weeks great numbers quickly died.

It was a time of great calamity, sorrow and heaviness, to many thousands of all sorts; and that which added to our friends' affliction, was the hardness of our persecutors' hearts, their cruelty and barbarity in imprisoning and detaining many of them in prison, both in Newgate, London, and the White Lion prison in Southwark, after the plague had greatly broken out, and many people died.

I did not have the freedom, satisfaction, or peace to leave the city or friends in and about London in that time of great and general calamity; no, not even when the mortality was at its height. I was concerned and given up in spirit to stay among them to attend friends' meetings; to visit friends in prison, and at their houses; even when many of them lay sick of the contagion, both in prison, and their homes. And in all that time the Lord preserved me by his power, through faith, from the infectious disease; whose mercy I esteemed great and wonderful, and hope ever thankfully to remember, in a living sense of the divine hand which upheld and preserved me.

Although it was judged the prisons were then infected and poisoned with the contagion, I was freely given up to suffer imprisonment; and on first-days took my sleeping cap in my pocket when I went to meeting, not knowing but I might be apprehended at some meeting, and committed to prison. The Lord gave me faith to be resigned to his will, either to live or to die for his name and truth sake; and through all those dangers and difficulties, to bear my testimony in faithfulness to his blessed power and life of righteousness, and thereby sustained and wonderfully preserved my life, when the cry and sound of mortality was round about us, from one end and side of the city to another.

As the contagion and sickness increased, many of our persecutors were so terrified, that their hands were for sometime weakened. Still many of them were so hardened, that they were resolved to proceed against us to banishment, as when Pharaoh saw there was respite, he hardened his heart. So did our persecutors, when the calamity did not come upon themselves, though they saw how it was abroad, greatly destroying the inhabitants; for it was observed in the weekly newspaper, that when the plague was most hot and violent in and about London, seven thousand one hundred and sixty-five died in one week; and in that year of 1665, over one hundred thousand died.

One evening after I had been visiting Friends in some places in the city, I was taken sick in my stomach and head, and concerned, lest any of the family with I lodged would be frightened, to think that sickness had taken hold upon me, and I said to my friend Rebecca Travers, to desire her sister, Mary Booth, not to be afraid on my account; for said I to her, I shall be well tomorrow, wishing her to tell her sister the same. And through the Lord's mercy I was well next morning, though I had been sick all night.

I was then deeply concerned to visit friends who were sick in prison, and out of prison, even when some of them were very near death, being often in great suffering and travail of spirit, with earnest prayer and fervent supplications to God for them who were suffering by imprisonment. My visit was to pray for God to appear for them, and plead their innocent cause, and afford them speedy help and deliverance. I was then a witness of the "love which casts out all fear," through the mercy and love of my heavenly Father, as shown in his dear Son. I was not afraid to visit my friends when sick and in an infected prison. The Lord bore up my spirit in living faith, above the fear of death, or the contagious Black Death. My life was resigned in the will of him who gave it, for my friends and brethren, for whose sake true Christian love would engage us to lay down our lives to save theirs, if required of the Lord so to show out unfeigned love one for another. For it is not only in words and outward appearance that true love is really manifest, but in deed and in truth. But many who profess Christian love and charity, light and truth, in these days of liberty, have not had their love tried, as the love of our friends and brethren was in those days of severe persecution and great calamity; wherein the Lord, notwithstanding, gave us great consolation, comfort and courage - having received certain testimony and evidence in our hearts of the love of God, which we did partake of in Christ Jesus, from which we believed no wrath of man, no persecutions, calamities or distresses, should separate us. In those times of severe trial, the questions and answers given by the apostle, were often remembered; Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? As it is written, For thy sake we are killed all the day long; we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter. Nay, in all these things, we are more than conquerors, through him who loved us. For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate from the love of God, which is in Christ our Lord: Rom 8:35-39.

Further to show my exercise and concern our friends in that time, the two following letters are next inserted.

A few appropriate words to all the tender hearted,
whose spirits are saddened and cast down a the trials of the present time.

O Dear Friends,

You that have received the testimony of God's love and salvation, and have tasted of the power of an endless life, look not out, nor be discouraged at the deep suffering and trials of the present time, though many have a deep sense upon their spirits, and the hearts of many are saddened to see how universal this calamity and overflowing scourge is, in this day of sweeping, sifting and trying; in which the faith of many must be thoroughly tried, and their patience proved, to the resignation of life and all to the will of the father, in whose hands we are, who knows what is best for his children. His ways are not to be measured nor found out by the wisdom of man; for his works and proceedings are in a cross to all carnal reason and expectation, and to the confounding of them. But, those, who in the faith and patience of the elect of God, give up in his will, as those that live by faith in him, and whose hope and refuge are the Lord, will never be confounded or afraid, though the earth be removed; or yet discouraged or unsettled, because of the wicked, who make a great flourish like a green tree, when he is in great power; for he passes away and shall not be found. And he that enters into the sanctuary of the Lord, and there abides, shall see the end of his enemies and persecutors, who stand in slippery places, though for a time they have seemed to prosper in the world.

And dear friends and tender hearts, who have a sense of the sufferings of the righteous Seed, which bears the afflictions, sorrows and sufferings of God's people through all, and has been bruised and wounded under the weight and burden of people's iniquities, though He has been deemed as one plagued or smitten of God; all of you keep in the sense of the power, by which you all may feel your preservation through faith in Him, that is given for a covenant of life and light. All retire to Him that is manifest for a sure hiding place to the upright, in the day of calamity and hour of temptation; and in Him you will witness plenteous redemption and refreshments of his life, over all the troubles and sufferings of the present time, and over all fears and doubts, which would beset any of you, to weaken you either inwardly or outwardly. And none are to let in unbelief, or hard thoughts, or to be shaken in mind, because of the deep sufferings of many of the dear servants of the Lord at this day, who are as killed and crucified, and all the day long accounted as sheep for the slaughter; nor at the great calamity and mortality in this fading city, which extends to the upright and innocent, in many places, as well as to the unrighteous, to both infants and others; and to many of the sufferers for truth in their confinements, who have not contributed to the cause of God's displeasure herein, but are taken away in mercy, as to them, and from the evil to come. They are delivered and set in safety, from the future cruelties and wicked designs of their oppressors and cruel minded persecutors, who have hunted for the blood of the innocent; and may not only be charged with not visiting Christ when he was sick and in prison, but also with killing and murdering him in prison; inasmuch as it is done to any of his little ones, by their cruel confinement in pestilential or poisonous places. But we know that for the faithful, there assuredly remains victory, triumph, and everlasting safety, though it is through death to many of them, who know that it is neither tribulation nor distress, nor persecution, nor famine, nor death, nor life, that shall be able to separate them from the love of Christ. And in this we have a sure evidence and living confidence, in the name and power of the Lord our God, to whom be glory and praises forever. So dear and tender hearts, think not the trials strange that attend us at this day, nor be discouraged by these, as if the Lord had either forsaken his heritage, or left his people desolate; for his love and fatherly care are known to his own, both in giving and taking away, as he pleases; and he is not to be limited, nor the creature to point him out his way or manner of taking away, or removing any of his own. But he is in freeness of spirit to be submitted unto in all things, that no flesh may glory or boast before him, seeing all flesh is grass, and the glory of man aa the flower that fades. Nor are any to retain self-confidence, but live in the pure fear of his name, and wait upon the Lord in singleness or mind, even in the light in which God dwells, and wherein the secret place of the Most High, and shadow of the Almighty are known; where his own seed, his offspring dwells with him, in whom our safety and dwelling place is, above that which is elementary, earthly, corruptible, or fading, and above the fears and terrors which are in the darkness, and deeply seize upon the children of the night, whose habitation is not in the light. They know not whither to go or run for a habitation, the terror and fear of death does so surprise them, because of the plague in their own hearts; and the pestilence that walks in darkness lies nearer than that of the outward sickness or bodily distemper. For it is the guilt of sin and fear of death, which make that the more dreadful to those who are in bondage therein; but which is not the effect has upon the innocent and blessed of the Lord, whom he will strengthen upon the bed of languishing, and whose bed he will make or turn in sickness.

Thus they whose eyes are towards God, do see what contrary effects the same common calamities, outward afflictions, or distresses, have on the minds and spirits of persons, as they differ in nature and spirit. Though the trials of the innocent this day are a stumbling block to them who have shut their eyes against the light; and some whose minds are out of the patience, stumble at the outward afflictions and deep sufferings of such as are innocent, as they did who, instead of comforting Job in his affliction, upbraided him because of it, as one not upright or innocent. However, the righteous shall go on in his way, and the upright shall grow strong in the Lord, by whose love and mercy all their trials are sanctified to them; and all you who trust in him shall be in safety, and it shall go well with you. Therefore be not dismayed, nor any of you disconsolate, whose hearts are tender towards God, nor let your souls be cast down by the enemy, but live in the innocent life of Christ Jesus, the incorruptible seed, in whom redemption, out of the world's corruptions, stands. For though this is a day of deep trial and desolation to many, the Lord will yet show forth a signal manifestation of his power and love for his own seed's sake, and in the prosperity of that righteous testimony, for which many have suffered and given up liberty and life, as we have done, whose generation and testimony shall never be extinguished or abolished. So that as the chosen and faithful who dwell with the Lord, and inherit his blessing, you may be preserved in the faith and patience of his own seed, as constant followers of the Lamb, to whom the victory and everlasting dominion belong, is the travail and desire of our souls, who are your dear friends.

George Whitehead
Alexander Parker

London, the 19th of the Sixth month, 1665

In the year 1665, that very summer in which the plague and mortality were so great, the persecutors in London were busy sending away our friends whom they had sentenced for banishment, and closely detained in prison for that purpose; they accordingly began early in the year to force our friends on ship-board.

The first Friends they shipped were Edward Brush, Robert Hayes, and James Barding:* who, on the 24th day of the first month, 1665, early in the morning, without any timely warning given them, were hurried down from Newgate to Black Friars' stairs, by some of Newgate turnkeys, and from there to Gravesend, and there forced on ship-board. Edward Brush, a very aged man, and a citizen of good repute among his neighbors and many persons of quality, was thus sent away and banished from his dear wife and child. But a more lamentable instance of the persecutors' cruelty in this undertaking was that Robert Hayes had been fasting and was weak in body, having been under a course of medicines. He was taken from prison and was carried forth upon the water to Gravesend; the season was very cold, and having no outward refreshment or relief afforded him by the way of the water, within a very short time after he was put on board ship he died there, and his body was brought up to London and buried in our friends' burying place.

*Edward Brush and James Harding were sent to Jamaica, where they were prosperous and lived in good circumstances, Edward Brush was an aged man at the time of his banishment, and left behind him a beloved wife and only child; but aged as he was, he survived the term of his exile, returned to his country, and died at home in peace.

I knew this Robert Hayes; he was a very innocent, loving man, a goodly person, with a fresh, comely countenance; he seemed healthy, and was in his prime and strength when first imprisoned. I was very sorrowfully affected when I heard how quickly he was dispatched out of the world, by that shameful cruelty and inhuman usage inflicted upon him by those merciless persecutors.

On the 18th of the second month, 1666, seven more of our friends were taken out of Newgate, and carried to Gravesend, and there put on ship-board for banishment, as the others were before.

It was remarkable, that not many days after those Friends were embarked, Judge Hyde, one of the great persecutors, was suddenly cut off by death; and who, it is said, was seen well at Westminster in the morning, and died in his closet about noon.

About this time the plague began to increase more and more, and the first person to die thereof in the city, was within doors of Edward Brush's house, who was one of the first that was sent away, and banished, as before related. The plague increased until eight thousand had died in one week of it and other distempers in the city of London. Oh! the hard-heartedness, cruelty, and presumption of our persecutors, who in that time of the great calamity and mortality, in the fifth month, 1656 took fifty-five, men and women, of our Friend out of Newgate, and forced them on board the ship called the Black Eagle, which spent some time at Buggby's Hole. The sickness had been at Newgate before they were forced on the ship. On the ship they were so crowed that the distemper broke out among them, so that most of them were infected. About twenty-seven of them died on ship-board, some at Buggby's Hole, and the rest beyond Gravesend.

I visited these Friends, and had a meeting with them when on ship-board; and the Lord God preserved me both from the distemper and from banishment, for which I do humbly praise his power and special providence, to His own praise and glory alone.

The second epistle, printed in the year 1665, after the heat of the contagion was past, was entitled:

An epistle for the remnant Friends and chosen of God, whom he has preserved to bear their testimony, in and around the city of London. To whom this testimony of the dear love and tender care which flows forth, and is extended toward you and all tender hearts who are concerned for the like sufferings, temptations and trials. From their faithful friend and servant in the Lord, GEORGE WHITEHEAD

My dearly beloved friends, brethren and sufferers, among whom my soul has travailed, and suffered for the afflicted's sake, whose burdens and trials are still with me in spirit, and also the love, tenderness, care and freeness of spirit that has appeared among you towards the afflicted and harmless sufferers, who have been led and driven as sheep to the slaughter, for the witness of Jesus and good conscience.

Dear hearts, I feel towards you all, in the spirit and unity of true love in the elect of God, in which life and dominion are felt by all who wait patiently upon the Lord, in true submission to his eternal power and counsel, and in the exercises, trials and hardships, that righteous seed is beset withal; that being thoroughly tried, so that you may come forth as gold thoroughly refined, and the righteous through all these things may go on in their way, and the innocent and clean in heart may grow stronger and stronger in the Lord, that truth and righteousness may forever shine forth among you, and all his elect, to the praise of his name. He beholds, feels and bears the sufferings of his people, in his long suffering and patience, wherein the spirits of his chosen ones are exercised, and by which they shall overcome, and be more than conquerors, where neither calamities, distresses, life nor death, shall ever be able to separate from that love, virtue, life and glory, revealed in the faithful in Christ.

My dear hearts, the glory and weight of God's righteous testimony of life and salvation, being in his light truly and evidently manifested in and among you, you have great cause forever to prize his love and glorify his name, and stick close to him, whatever perils, trials, oppositions, sufferings or temptations, you ever meet. Be of a constant spirit and upright mind, in the unchangeable truth to the Lord God of life, in whom your preservation and safety stand; knowing that no weight of affliction or suffering here, is comparable to the weight of eternal life and salvation in Christ Jesus, which you are called unto, through the glorious appearance of God's power and gospel of peace and salvation; for the true sense and enjoyment thereof, does certainly out-balance and far exceed, all the sufferings and trials of the present time, though they are very many and deep.

Let none of you be discouraged or shaken in mind at things of this nature, for because of the seeming advantage or occasion, that the wicked and rebellious and envious spirits, or such as are in prejudice, do take against us, because of that common calamity and late mortality, which has befallen many of the righteous, as well as the unrighteous, as to the outward man, in the city of London. For God's testimony and glory shine, and will shine and break through all these clouds of afflictions, sufferings and reproaches, with which the habitation of the righteous have been, and is encompassed. Yet the faithfulness and uprightness of many innocent lambs of Christ, in and about that city, are never to be forgotten, which so greatly did appear and shine forth in standing to their testimony, and keeping to the truth in tenderness of conscience and sincerity towards God; who has called us to meet together in his fear, and in his everlasting name and power, with a real respect to his glory and righteous cause, which is concerned in the obedience of his people, both in that and all other duties and acts required by him. Their obedience in spiritual worship, many have not denied or declined, neither under the trials which have proceeded from men, nor under those which came from God; but whether they have been liable to fall into the hands of God or men, for the proof of their faith, they have not departed from Him who makes up his jewels through trials and tribulations. In all of these, his fatherly care is felt, and his tender mercy and compassion is seen towards his own, as to his peculiar offspring, tender babes, sons, and faithful servants, whom he loves, and therefore chastises and tries, not in anger and fury, but in love, fatherly care and pity; so that those whose eyes are open in the true light, and in a right mind and spirit, have thoroughly weighted the state of the suffering seed among us, which is in the faith of Abraham, brought forth by the immortal power of an endless life; considering the faithfulness and godly sincerity of a remnant, whose life has testified for God herein, both in doing good, and suffering for well-doing. Such who have thus weighed this suffering state, do plainly see, that neither Satan nor his instruments, have any real advantage against any of the remnant of this seed, through any of these trials or sufferings, either from the hands of God or men. Many have kept their integrity to the last, and have embraced their trials and afflictions in God's tender love, and have had such unity therewith, that they have been far from either blaspheming or cursing God, as the wicked many times have done and will do, when plagues, woes, torments and pains seize upon them. Neither Satan nor his instruments have had their evil designs answered, as the devil would have had against Job under his affliction, when he sought to make him curse God to his face. The truth of our God, and the innocence of his people, who know the redemption of the soul, which is precious, shall stand over both men and devils, so that as the truth is over the devil himself - who has the power of death and darkness - even to the confounding and stopping their mouths, who are actuated by the power and spirit of enmity and darkness, may be convicted, confounded, and left without excuse before the Lord our God, who will be known to be clear when he judges.

Yes, blessed forever be the name of our God, who has given us strength and courage to stand in an evil day, over hell and death and the devil, with all his fiery darts and fierce assaults against the righteous. The Lord has spared and will spare a remnant, to bear his mark and name on the earth, and to hold forth a living testimony for his glory and praise among the sons of men, for which many have not loved their lives unto death, but have offered up their lives, as many manifestly did last summer in London in the plague. Many offered up their lives and all for truth and their afflicted brethren and sisters; for whose sake my soul has been greatly bowed down and afflicted, and my bowels have yearned for them, and I was so moved by compassion and brokenness of spirit, that neither life itself, nor any outward privilege, seemed so dear to me to resign for their sakes.

In the city and prisons, some of the persecutors of that time appeared cruel and wicked to the innocent, to destroy them in the pestilential places of confinement, in which many also died on ship-board – where so many were confined for banishment – many laid down their lives for the witness of a good conscience. Although the wicked for a time may be lifted up in their wickedness, and insult us because of our deep trials and the many deaths of so many innocent people, yet their hate being so increased and hardened against us – who are the people of the Lord – only makes for their worse destruction and misery. Their torment, which slumbers not, is more than that of many who have died of the pestilence, by which many, both of good and bad have been removed. To those that remain alive and remain in their sins, without regard to the warning of the plague, it will prove the greatest plague and judgment, who are the least considerate, being insensible of the hand of the Lord in it, or of their states and conditions. As to this particular calamity or sickness, it is in itself not the worst of judgments, that God has in store for a sinful, provoking, rebellious people or nation. And God’s controversy is not yet over for this nation, nor the vials of his displeasure have been emptied upon the enemies and persecutors of his seed. What a sure and heavy judgment it is, and what misery it does predict to many in this land, that so many innocent and righteous persons of it should be taken away, as those of the world are not worthy; but such are taken away from the evil to come, and from future calamities, as set in safety forever, from those that have puffed at them, and made a prey of them in their lifetime.

And as for those that yet remain, who fear the Lord and stick close to him always, eyeing and setting him before us, in the greatest of our perils and sufferings, we know his goodness endures forever, though the mighty and exalted of the earth boast and insult us for a time; but the more suffering is, the greater will be the consolation and glory to those who continue faithful to the end.

And whatever conclusions are brought forth against us, either by wicked men, or any who in prejudice turn against us, and take occasion from the mortality which has come upon so many Friends in the time of this great calamity, as if it were in God's wrath, indignation, or fury against the body of Friends, or any of us who have come to the communion of the body of Christ, which we are members of; or if any that profess the name of the Lord be so clouded, biased and prejudiced in their minds, as to conclude this is a fulfilling of some such prophecies of wrath and indignation against Friends; such spirits and evil things are plainly seen, and that they are seen as presumptuous, and not prophets sent of the Lord; and therefore cannot make us afraid. So confide in the name of our God, and in that living faith in which our unity and victory stand. Our innocent life stands over them in true judgment, against all that, which among some have crept in at unaware, to create divisions and enmity against the faithful servants or people of God, where it is received in any unstable or brittle spirits; and therefore my soul says, “the Lord rebuke thee Satan,” who envies the heritage of God. Why did you subtlety present yourself among the sons of God, to trouble the innocent, endeavoring with your fiery darts and temptations of this nature to turn them against their maker? Why do you subtlety make use of instruments in this your wicked work, to effect your treachery? The Lord will rebuke you by his mighty power; for we are sure that where God's faithful witness in conscience is owned, which ought to be the gauge in the case, and must decide the controversy, it does bear witness with us and for us, and to the justification of all the faithful among us, who are really of us, and belong to the seed of election; and therefore will not come out from us, who abide in the truth of God, which changes not, being of the seed of Jacob, forever spirit, which is beyond revolting counsel after the flesh. For herein are we heirs of promise, and then who shall condemn or prophesy wrath, where God justifies, and bring condemnation on themselves? For God’s love was felt by many under that trial and visitation, of which they died about that day, and many were sensible of God's love and favor to the very last.

And the life, peace, satisfaction and comfort that many innocent Friends felt, and that some expressed and signified on their death beds, I am a living witness of, for them; dying sometimes, as the Lord has drawn me in his love, been present with many of them when they were very low in the outward man, and with many when upon their death beds, in that destructive prison of Newgate, and some other places. Yes, when sorrow and sadness have seized upon my spirit, and my heart and soul have been pierced and wounded when I have seen the sad sufferings of so many harmless lambs, on their sick beds in these noisome holes and prisons; yet at the same time having a deep sense and knowledge of the Lord's love and care to them in that condition, and truly felt his life and power stirring among them; this, on the other hand, has refreshed and revived my spirit, knowing that Christ their salvation and redemption was manifest to and in them, though in that suffering slate, as they have followed and obeyed him through sufferings and tribulations. With such, to live, was Christ in that state, and to die was gain; it being through death that the Lord had appointed the final deliverance of many, from the cruelties and rod of their oppressors, and from the miseries and evils to come.

The faithfulness, uprightness, and innocence of many of those that were taken away, their constance of spirit to the Lord and his living truth, their unfeigned love to the brethren - by which it was evident they had passed from death to life, - and that living and faithful testimony they bore for the Lord in their lifetime, being well known and manifest among us; their memorial is truly precious to us, and never to be forgotten; and we are satisfied that they were counted worthy for the Lord, and the world was not worthy of them.

And besides some whom God has restored and raised up again, who yet remain alive with us, who were under the same trial and sickness, can testify to God's tender love to them; how freely they were by faith given up to the Lord, under it in his love and favor, which they partook of, either to die or live, as he should be pleased to dispose of them, knowing that some that were very dear to the Lord, even some of his choice jewels and peculiar treasure were removed by it.

So that I must say what I have seen and felt, that as to the state of faithful Friends in this case, some by faith according to the will of God were given up, and desirous rather to die than live; and therein freely embraced the outward affliction, which was but for a moment, in comparison; knowing that to die would be a great advantage and gain to them, that thereby they should be freed from future sufferings and evils, and their spirits should rest in everlasting peace, joy and triumph. Others by faith were singly given up in the will of God to die, if he should so dispose of them, not in themselves expecting life or recovery, and yet in so being given up, have been restored, to bear their testimony among us, having known and felt that in patience resign to the will of God in self-denial, abasement and humility in their affliction, was most consistent with their peace. And some others of us by faith according to the will of God, have been kept over the distemper, and till now preserved alive; not for any respect that we may assume to ourselves in the matter, nor for any reason, as I know, that can be shown for us more than for some innocent persons that were taken away, but that the Lord had a respect to his own glory and further service for himself, which he had for us to do and be employed in; and that he will preserve a remnant as he has determined, to bear his name and hold forth his testimony among men, in their innocent lives and holy conversations. The glory and praise we give to the Lord, desiring all of us may faithfully serve him in godly fear and true humility, the days we have to sojourn here, that we all may ever be to his praise, in whose hand we are, whether we live or die. For he makes all things work together for good, to those who love Him, who are not offended in Him in any of their tribulations or temptations, when the hour of temptation is upon all flesh, to try those who dwell upon the face of the earth. He has committed unto us the word of his patience, who is Israel's keeper, is our preserver, support and refuge through all these things. He has made us co-workers together in one and the same spirit of faith and life, wherein he obeyed and submitted to, by his faithful people and servants in their several states, trials and exercises; and among whom the various effects and fruits of the same faith are seen and brought forth, according to his will, who gives life and preservation.

And now, if such as take advantage against us, whether they are open or secret smiters or enemies, did either rightly or seriously weigh their conditions, and let God's witness judge the case, they have no cause to boast or insult over us, for they are not their own keepers, nor is their life continued by their own power; and how soon their time may expire, and their judgment overtake them, they know not, nor how soon their days may be cut asunder. Their condemnation slumbers not, who in the pride of their hearts and presumption of their spirits, turn against the suffering seed of God, under whatever profession and pretence, though under pretence of the name of the Lord, or profession of the truth itself; and knowing also, that many who were of their own spirit and principle, have also been taken away under the same calamity - for it has extended to all sorts, both holy and profane - they have cause to dread and fear before the Lord, and ought not to be high minded or presumptuous. For the mouth of the boaster and exalted must be stopped, and all flesh and carnal reason is to be silent in this matter, for God's power is over it all, and over that which has threatened or brought evil tidings against his Israel. We know the same spirit that turns against us, and watches for occasions, and prophesies our destruction, would have it come to pass, so as to be recognized a true prophet; and that the murderer that kills the poor, the same that is in our open enemies, and the same that was in Cain against his brother; and he that is in this spirit, or principle or enmity or prejudice, has no eternal life abiding in him. Oh let this thing be published in the ears of God's people, and let friends feel my innocent intention and end; having written the more of this nature for prevention of the enemy's subtlety and temptations of this kind, that the tender and weak may not be ensnared thereby; and having seen how Satan attacks such with temptations upon these deep trials, to undermine their hope, and to create unbelief and despair in the mind, to turn them from the truth, and how he makes use of his instruments in the same way, to effect his evil end against us; but the Lord will rebuke him, and bruise him under the feet of his own anointed seed and faithful people.

A common calamity or distemper, as this, which has brought such great mortality, as it has been appointed and permitted of the Lord, has extended and operated according to the spreading and contagious nature and property of it, to the bodies of both old and young, good and bad, innocent and guilty; yes, to many that know not their right hand from the left. But the iniquities and abominations of the wicked were the cause of God's anger and displeasure in this, and the original cause of this calamity; the creation being oppressed under their wickedness, and the earth defiled under the inhabitants, which cause Heaven to frown upon the world, and the curse to go forth, and blessing to be withheld from them. The taking away of good and merciful men, and many innocent persons, though it is in love to themselves, yet it is in judgment against the other, who have brought innocent blood upon their own heads, by their cruelties and persecutions, and whose hearts are hardened and become implacable against truth and righteousness, and all those who walk in it, whose souls have been daily vexed and oppressed, through the ungodly and unchristian conversation of the wicked.

God, who did not spare his own Son Christ Jesus, but delivered him to suffer, and to be numbered among the transgressors, both in life death, and his soul to be an offering for offences of many; has also given many of his dear children, not only to believe on, but also to suffer with, his own Son. He has borne our griefs and sorrows, and with him has allowed them to be reckoned and numbered among transgressors, both in their life and death, that his followers might bear the reproaches and partake of his sufferings, who made his grave with the wicked, and with the rich in his death. And they were esteemed as smitten or plagued of God, though as to their own conditions it is, and will be all with the righteous forever, having obtained witness thereof, and their justification from the Lord God, by whose righteous witness it is known and manifest in secret in men’s consciences, where he visits in wrath, and distributes sorrows in his anger, and where he visits, tries, or chastises in love, favor, and tender mercy. This witness discovers where the guilt of sin and disobedience is, where deceit, treachery and revolting from faith are, which occasion terrors and fear of wrath, and which incur the anger and wrath of God upon the guilty therein, and also bring suffering upon the tender and innocent. These knowing the guilt taken away, every affliction and trial that they meet with is sanctified to them, through the tender love and favor of God, in which their cup is mixed; the dregs of which their implacable enemies and persecutors shall drink without mixture. Now the difference of the two states is felt and discerned in the invisible spirit, by that which judges not by the sight of the eye, or hearing of the ear, nor barely from the outward appearance of common afflictions - which sometimes come alike upon all - but in righteousness and truth that judges. As it has been said of old, concerning the righteous, whose souls are in the hand of God, that in the sight of the unwise their departure is taken for misery, and their going from us to be utter destruction, but they are in peace; for though they are punished in the sight of men, yet is their hope full of immortality; and having been a little chastised, they shall be greatly rewarded; for God proved them, and found them worthy for himself; as gold in the furnace has he tried them, and received them as a burnt offering. Yes, such are they who shall judge the nations and have dominion over the people, whose Lord, that takes care for his elect, shall reign forever.

Now my dear friends and tender hearts, commit your way to the Lord, and cast your burden upon him, and he will bear you up, and sustain you by his own right hand of power. Live in the immortal seed and spiritual communion, where life and peace are daily received, and your mutual refreshment and consolation stand, and wherein the spirits of just men are seen and felt, and the life of God's faithful servants and martyrs, and such as have finished their testimony with joy and peace, is enjoyed, even in this spiritual communion, which reaches beyond all visible things, and is above all mortal and fading objects or things. So in the dear and tender love of God, which dwells and lives in my heart towards you, and all the faithful everywhere, commit you to Him, in whom our help and deliverance are; and in the kingdom of Christ's patience, I am your dear and faithful friend and brother,

George Whitehead

Let this be read distinctly, in the life and authority of God - from where it came - among Friends in and about the city of London and elsewhere as any Friends are moved in the life.

The Great Fire of London

The next year after the city and suburbs of London were so greatly depopulated by the plague, the dreadful fire began, and broke out in Pudding-lane, over against the place where the Monument stands. In a few days time, a very great part of the city within the walls, was burnt down and the habitations consumed, except a few streets and parts of streets; to the great amazement, terror and distraction of the inhabitants, who were forced to flee for their lives, with what goods they could save, into Moor-fields, and the outer parts, and there to lie abroad with their goods for several nights and days; the country bringing in bread for their relief, my soul greatly pitied the inhabitants, when I saw them lie in the fields, in that poor, mournful condition, as they did.

One morning as my friend and brother, Josiah Cole and I were at Gerard Roberts', in Thomas Apostles, London, and going up toward the top of the house, observed how violently the fire went on toward Thames street and those parts of the city - and hearing what rattling and crackling the fire made in the houses, Josiah said, “This looks like a Popish plot or work;” and we were both in the same mind. I observed afterward the fire broke out in several places, distinct one from another, so that it was very probable several wicked agents were at work in carrying on and putting it forward.

One passage I may not omit by the way, because it has been misrepresented, and false reports spread about it. One Thomas Ibbott, or Ibbit, a Huntingtonshire man, had been convinced of the truth at a large meeting which I had at Thomas Parnell's, in his barn, at King-Rippon, in Hunts, a considerable time before the fire came to London. Two days before the fire, in great haste, being on a sixth-day of the week, he dismounted from his horse, with his clothes loose, and was appeared by some to be a person under distraction or discomposure of mind, as I understood by several. He hastened very much or ran through the city, toward Whitehall, in such a posture as to imitate then, how later the many of the inhabitants were forced to flee from the fire when they had scarcely time to put on or fasten their wearing clothes about them. Such a sign he appeared to be, and foretold his vision he had before, that the city would be laid waste by fire, as I was informed; for I did not see him until that morning when the fire broke out. But the evening after Thomas Ibbott had passed through the city, I met with some of our women Friends at the Bull and Mouth, near Aldersgate, who gave me a pretty full account of him. He had been with them that day, and told them his vision of the fire, and message to London; and to them he appeared very zealous and hot in his spirit, when he told them thereof; and they were afraid he was under some discomposure of mind, which made them somewhat question or doubt of what he told them.

When they related the same to me, I had a fear and caution upon my spirit, so that I dared not oppose or question his vision or message, but told them, I knew the man; he was convinced by me at a meeting at King-Rippon, in Huntingtonshire, and is a sort of a manly person, zealous and somewhat of a hot spirit, or to this effect I said. So that his spirit is nearer to those destroying angels, or fiery spirits, that are ministers of wrath and severe judgments, than those Friends are, who have attained to a further growth in the spirit of the Lamb, Christ Jesus. And he might sooner have a discovery or such an evil or judgment, or mischief permitted to come upon the city, than they whose spirits are more meek and gentle, and more settled in quietness and peace. I very well remember this was the import of my answer to them, who gave me an account of the man, and his vision and message, as he told them; so far was I from opposing the same, as has been falsely reported concerning some of us, who then were in London, and concerned in public testimony for the blessed truth of our God, and Lord Jesus Christ; Josiah Cole and I being then in the city. Yet I was not at that time without a secret fear concerning this Friend, Thomas Ibbott, for fear that he might run out, or be exalted by the enemy, into some conceit,* or imagination, especially when he saw his vision coming to pass the next morning, when the fire broke out as before said, from place where it began, and early in the morning was got down to the bridge and Thames street, the wind being easterly, and so high, that it drove the fire violently and irresistibly before it, blowing great flakes over houses, and from one to another.

*Whitehead's premonitions were totally correct, evidently without his knowledge of how they turned out to be true. Per Sewel in his A History of the Rise, Increase, and Progress of a People Called Quakers:

Thomas Ibbit of Huntingtonshire came to London a few days before the burning of that city, and, as has been related by eye-witnesses, did upon his coming after alighting from his horse, and unbuttoning his clothes in such a loose a manner as if they had been put on in haste, just out of bed. In this manner he went about the city on the sixth, being the day he came there, and also the seventh day of the week pronouncing a judgment by fire, which should lay waste the city. On the evening of those days, some of his friends had meetings with him, to inquire concerning his message and call to pronounce that impending judgment; in his account of it he was not more particular clear than that he said, he had had for some time the vision thereof, but had delayed to come and declare it as commanded, until he felt, as he expressed it, the fire in his own bosom; which message or vision was very suddenly proved to be sadly true. The fire began on the 2nd of September, 1666, on the first-day of the week; which immediately followed those two days that Thomas Ibbit had gone about the city declaring that judgment.

Having gone up and down the city as has been said, when afterwards he saw the fire break out, and beheld the fulfilling of his prediction, a spiritual pride seized on him, which if others had not been wiser than he, might have tended to his utter destruction; for the fire being come as far as the east end of Cheapside, he placed himself before the flames, and spread his arms forth, as if to stay the progress of it; and if Thomas Matthews, with others, had not pulled him, seeming now altogether distracted, from there, it was likely he would have perished by the fire. Yet in process of time, as I have been told, he came to some recovery, and confessed this error.

As George Fox has so clearly told us: whatever you are told by God to do, do that, nothing less, nothing more; and then return to your home to get back into the Light.

That morning the fire broke out, some of us met at Gerard Roberts' house, where Thomas Ibbott met us, and told us he must go to the king with a message, which was to warn him to release our friends out of prisons, else the decree or the Lord would be sealed against him in three days time, to his destruction or overthrow. Upon which I was afraid he would be too forward, and give occasion against Friends, and cause others to reproach truth and them. At which point I earnestly charged him, if he went, not to limit a time, if he had a warning to give the king to release our friends, there being many then in prisons - that he would set no time of the king's death or end, or that might be so taken or construed as a prophesy thereof; for he might cause truth to suffer if he did. I was indeed greatly concerned for truth and his own sake, poor man! for fear that he should be hurried into distraction; for I clearly saw where his danger was, though his vision of the fire was apparently true, which I never opposed, but rather granted that it might have been shown him by the Lord.

Ellis Hooks in a letter Margaret Fell, dated 2nd of 8th month, 1666, has a completely different account of what occurred with the King, regarding this prophecy:

There was a young man that came out of Huntingdonshire, to warn the King to set Friends at liberty ; or else, within two days, destruction would occur. He went to Whitehall the day before the fire; but they would not admit him to come to the King. The next morning he went again, and was admitted to speak to him in the presence-chamber. Here was last week another man Friend, who came out of Staffordshire to speak with the King, and to deliver a paper; and indeed a very plain and honest man he is, and he had a great weight upon him. Going towards Whitehall last sixth-day morning, he soon met the King in his coach, (as it was supposed) going hunting. And he stepped to the coach side, and laid his hand upon it, and said: "King Charles, my message this day is to you, in the behalf of God's poor, afflicted, suffering people ;" and gave him his paper, which indeed were weighty words, and pressed him on to read it. The King said, "How do you think I can read it now? So he told the King that his message was unto him,—"that the people of God might have their liberty from under the great bondage, that you and your laws have laid upon them." Then the King replied and said, that he and his Parliament were to consider of it. The Friend told him, "if they were to consider setting the afflicted people of the Lord at liberty, it might be a means to stop the judgments of the Lord; but if they did continued their bonds, the Lord God would multiply his judgments the more upon them." Then the Friend moved the sufferings of Friends at Reading, and told him that their sufferings cried very much in the ears of the Lord against him; and unless he set them at liberty from under the cruel law of premunire, their cries would not be stopped, but would be turned double upon his head. Then the King said, that they had not obeyed the law of the nation. Then the Friend told him, that if the laws he and Parliament made were compatible with the law of God, then he could fairly try whether they walked contrary to that; and so pressed him to set Friends at liberty, or else the Lord would bring worse judgments upon him. And he told him, that the Lord had pleaded with this city, with plagues, sword, and with fir ; and so left him.

When he came to the coach side, the footman took off his hat; but the King told him to give the man his hat again, and was very mild and moderate.

Also I observed in a letter of his a few days before the fire was over, that he mentioned the true number of days when the vision or fire should be accomplished; so that he had a certain vision and discovery given him in that particular. And to show that there remained a sincerity in the man, after his mind came to be settled, he wrote a letter to some Friends in London, in which after he remembers his love to George Whitehead, Josiah Cole., and S. H., he wrote the following:

I dared not much stir up or down anyway, for people's looking at what was done, for fear that the Lord should be offended, further than own outward business lies. I have been much tempted and exercised; yet through mercy have found help in the needful time. Whatever slips or failings Friends saw in me, in the time I was with them, I would have none take notice of, for I was under great exercises, and often ran too fast, which the Lord in his due time, gave me a sight of:

In the Love of my Father, farewell.

Thomas Ibbot

When the city was burnt down and laid in ashes, we had our meetings on the fourth day, weekly, near Wheeler street; our usual place, the Bull and Mouth, had then been destroyed the fire. This was the place our meetings had been most disturbed; and at other outer parts around the city, we kept our meetings at the usual times and places, as at the Peel in St. John's street, Westminster; Horsleydown on Southwark side; Ratcliff Devonshire house, Old Buildings; and then had some rest and ease from violent persecution and disturbance for a time, until the city came in a great measure to be rebuilt.

From Valiant for the Truth:

The city of London was visited by another calamity, scarcely less terrible than the dreaded plague. It had been a very hot summer, and the houses in London, being mostly built of timber filled in with plaster, were dry and combustible as firewood. In the middle of the night a fire broke out near London Bridge in a baker's shop, where a quantity of firewood was stored, and in a few moments the flames spread from house to house, baffling all attempts to check their progress. For three days the fire fiend sped on his way, devouring the richest warehouses, the finest churches, and the abodes of the nobility, as well as the humble dwellings of the poor. When at last he ceased his mad course, two thirds of that populous city lay a sightless mass of cinders and ashes. The scene is thus described by Evelyn in his "Diary:" "The sky was of a fiery aspect, like the top of a burning oven, the light being seen above forty miles around for many nights. The conflagration was so universal, and the people so astonished, that from the beginning they hardly stirred to quench it; so that there was nothing heard or seen but crying out and lamentation, and running about like distracted creatures."

Only the day but one before the fire broke out, there had been a strange sight in the crowded, busy streets of the city. A Friend from Huntingtonshire passed through them, with his doublet unbuttoned, rushing about frantically, scattering his money, and crying out that the people of that city should do so in a few days. No one believed his prediction, but it was fully verified at the time of the fire.

Yet still the persecuting spirit and design of persecution remained in our adversaries; so many of them were not cut off by the plague who took no warning from it, nor warning by the following consuming fire, which had laid waste the greatest part of the city.

Though the Lord our God was pleased to give our friends in London, faith and courage, as well as resolution to build our meeting house in Whitehart court, by that called Gracechurch street; yet we were not then without expectation of further persecution and suffering, for meeting in that, as well as other places in and about the city. And so it came to pass after the meeting-house was built; our meetings were frequently disturbed, especially on the first-day of the week, by the trained bands and informers, and many of us by force drug out, and our meetings often held in the street, where sometimes we had opportunities openly to declare the truth and preach the gospel, as well as publicly to pray to Almighty God; yet not always allowed to do so, because we were often violently pulled away while in the exercise of the gospel ministry. Likewise when we have been in solemn prayer to Almighty God, we have been laid hold on and violently arrested, and many of us taken to the Exchange, and there kept under a guard of soldiers until the afternoon; and then taken before the mayor, who would be ready to fine or imprison us, or to bind us over to appear at the sessions, or rather to take our words to appear, if he was a person of some moderation towards us. The latter obligation we chose; that was conditionally to promise we would appear if the Lord pleased, rather than be bound by recognizance or bond to appear, because commonly in their recognizances, they would put the words, And in the mean time to be of good behavior. But we could not agree to be so bound, because we knew they would interpret our religious, solemn meetings as a breach of good behavior, which meetings we could never yield to decline. But as for me, my share has been imprisonment, more often than liberty upon parole or promise; being more cautious of being anyway ensnared thereby, contrary to my Christian liberty and testimony, than of imprisonment of outward confinement; which was not only my own care, respecting my inward peace and liberty in Christ Jesus, but it was also the care of all faithful friends and brethren in those days, to keep out of all such snares as would infringe that liberty. We chose rather to expose our persons to be trampled on in the streets, by our persecuting adversaries, if permitted, than to bow down our souls at their command. Isa 51:23.

Although in those suffering times I was much concerned to attend our disturbed meetings in and about London, yet at times I had a concern laid upon me to visit our friends and their meetings in the county of Surrey, particularly on that side where our dear friend Stephen Smith and his family lived; they having not long before that time, in great love received the truth, through my testimony, as before related. I visited and had many good and blessed meetings, both at Stephen Smith's house at Purbright, and other places towards Guilford and those parts, where the Lord was with me, and helped and comforted me in his work and service, as at other times and places.

I was committed to prison at the Marshalsea in Southwark, with several other Friends, for a meeting in the county of Surrey, on the 22nd day of June, 1668.

After we were apprehended at the meeting, being on the first-day of the week, by one of the justices, George Vernon, we had liberty to meet him and the other justice at Guilford the next morning, where they consulted and made a warrant, and sent us to the Marshalsea prison in Southwark, for the time appointed, which was short, and the imprisonment pretty easy. The keepers were civil to us; but the shortness of the imprisonment was usually to hasten our expected eventual banishment for the third offence; therefore the short sentence was not to be kind, so much as designed to get rid of us, out of the country; which the Lord frustrated.

The Lord showed me that my place and service, as well as suffering for the testimony of Jesus Christ, would be much in the city of London, as it had been before, to the convincement and conversion or many to God, by the testimony he had committed unto me, and attended with his blessing and presence, though I had traveled much about in this nation, and deeply suffered also. Seeing the city of London then to be the principal place of my stay, in which I was also freely given up in service and suffering for the blessed truth; the Lord was also pleased to show me that it would be well for me to marry an honest, approved Friend of London; and accordingly that faithful servant of the Lord and his people, Anne Greenwell, then a widow, was presented to my mind, and after serious consideration and seeking the Lord for full satisfaction, having also the approbation and encouragement of several ancient, faithful brethren, I made known my mind to her, which, upon due consideration, was by her accepted.

Though there was a disparity as to age between us, she being several years above my age; I looked beyond that, to what was most excellent in her, and permanent; namely, her virtue and piety, to which she had been very early inclined from her youth; and being one of the first receivers of the truth, in the spirit and power thereof, after our friends first came to London, she approved herself faithful and very serviceable, and was accordingly greatly approved by faithful Friends.

On these and other weighty considerations we were well satisfied to proceed in the good order or truth and Friends, to the publication of our intention of marriage, if the Lord pleased, to sundry public meetings of our friends, both of the women and the men, having a Christian care upon our spirits to be exemplary for good order, love, unity and peace in the church among Friends; and we proceeded to accomplish our marriage, which was solemnized at a meeting appointed for the same, in our Friends' meeting room, at John Elson's, at the Peel, in that called St. John's street, where, on the 13th day of the third month, 1670, we solemnly, in the fear of the Lord, took each other, and entered into the covenant of marriage, in the presence of the Lord our God and many faithful witnesses then present, promising with God's assistance, mutual love and faithfulness to each other. And the Lord blessed our marriage and meeting, and us toward each other therein.

As divine Providence led me in the choice of a person, whom I believed would be a suitable companion and help to me, and that would be willing to sympathize and bear part with me in my sufferings on truth's account, so she proved not only a faithful wife, but as a dear sister, and like a tender mother to me, after our marriage, in all my sufferings, both by imprisonments and spoil and loss of goods. All this she bore patiently, being resigned with me in the will of our God, who enabled us by his power to stand faithful through all; blessed be his glorious name forever, in whose love we were preserved and continued towards each other to the end of her days; having lived in peace and comfort, and in true, mutual, and constant love, until parted by death. I cannot forget the tender care which this my dear companion had over me, and for my liberty, when I was many times confined in prisons for my testimony on the Lord's account, whose mercies in all respects I greatly prize, and hope shall never forget. In a printed treatise, entitled, Piety Promoted, the life, service, and death of my said wife are largely related, and testimonies given thereof by many faithful Friends.

My dear wife was married to me seventeen years and nearly two months, and was faithful and loving until death, and ended her days in great peace, the 27th day of the fifth month, 1686, having by faith in, and faithfulness to our Lord Jesus Christ, obtained a good report in her place and services in his church and people.

I remained a widower for one week less than two years, in which time, I was for awhile in a quandary, whether or not I should ever marry again, and earnestly sought the Lord to resolve and direct me, both in the matter and in my choice, if I should marry. I found freedom and clearness in the fear of God, being also encouraged by some loving friends and brethren, to propose marriage to Anne Goddard, an honest and virtuously inclined maid. She then kept a shop in White chapel, London, and came of a good, honest, and reputable family, being the daughter of captain Richard Goddard, clothier, and Anne his wife, of Reading, who were then deceased.

After our agreement, and due procedure towards marriage, in the way of truth and unity of Friends, our marriage was solemnized in a large public assembly at our meeting-house near Devonshire square, London, the 19th of the fifth month, 1688. She was an ingenuous and careful wife, and we were mutually comforted together in true love, and tender affection, becoming so closely bound to each other. We had but one child, which the Lord took away, it dying in the birth. However, the Lord so sanctified our disappointments and afflictions to us in this world, that he gave us faith and patience, with submission to his providence, to enable us to bear them, and to look beyond all external objects of delight and afflictions here below, which are but momentary, unto an eternal inheritance in his heavenly kingdom; glory to his excellent name forever.

To return to the design of this history, relating to my concern in sufferings, trials, and exercises, with many others, for the truth of God. Our persecutors did not take warning, either by the plague and great mortality thereby, or by the devouring fire, which destroyed and laid waste the greatest part or the city of London, as before mentioned. They did not desist from their inhuman work or persecution, but when they could not prevail to banish or destroy us by their two former edicts or acts of Parliament, then a third act was devised to impoverish us in our estates, by mercenary as well as merciless informers. The title of the third act was: An Act to prevent and suppress seditious conventicles, 22 Car. 2, 1670.

The preamble stated: For providing further and more speedy remedies against the growing and dangerous practices of seditious sectaries, and other disloyal persons, who, under pretence of tender consciences, have, or may at their meetings, contrive insurrections, as late experience has show.

The matter of fact assigned therein: Any subject of this realm, of the age of sixteen years, or upward, being present at any assembly, conventicle, or meeting, under color or pretence of any exercise of religion, in other manner than according to the liturgy of the Church of England. Five persons or more being assembled together, in any house inhabited, or uninhabited, field or place.

The manner of conviction: Any one or more justices of the peace, or chief magistrate, required and enjoined, upon proof to him, or them, of such offence, either by confession of the party, or oath or two witnesses, or by notorious evidence, and circumstance of the fact, to make a record of every such offence, under his, or their hands and seals; which record so made, shall be taken and adjudged to be a full conviction of every such offender, for such offence. [At which point fines were imposed, and heavy distresses made.]

The penalties, by fines, etc.: A fine of five shillings for the first offence, and ten shillings for the second: which fine and fines, for the first and every other offence, to be levied by distress and sale of the offender's goods and chattels; or in case of the poverty or such offender, upon the goods and chattels or any other person convicted of the like offence at the same conventicle - so as the sum to be levied, amount not in the whole, to above the sum of ten pounds for one meeting.

One third part of the monies levied, for the use of the king.

Another third part thereof, for the use or the poor of the parish.

And the other third part thereof, to the informer and informers, and to such person or persons, as the justice, or justices, would appoint, having regard to their diligence and industry, in the discovery, dispersing, and punishing of the said conventicles.

And that the preacher, or teacher in any such meeting, assembly, or conventicle, must for every such first offence, forfeit the sum of twenty pounds. And if the preacher or teacher is a stranger, and his name and habitation not known, or shall be thought unable to pay the same, the justice, justices, are empowered and required to levy the same by warrant, upon the goods and chattels of any such persons who shall be present at the same conventicle. And the money so levied, to be disposed of in manner before stated. And if such offender shall at any time again commit the same offence, or offences, he shall for every such offence, incur the penalty of forty pounds, to be levied and disposed as before stated.

Every person convicted of knowingly and willingly allowing any such meetings in his or her house, out-house, barn, or yard, shall forfeit the sum of twenty pounds, to be levied as before said: and in case of his or her poverty, upon the goods and chattels or such persons who shall be convicted of being present at the same conventicle; and the money so levied, to be disposed of in manner before stated.

And it was provided, that no person by any clause of this Act, should be liable to pay above ten pounds, for any one meeting, in regard of the poverty of any other person, or persons.

It was also enacted, that justices, chief magistrates, constables, headboroughs, and tithing-men, by warrant, should, and might, with such aid and force, as they thought fit, break open, and enter into any house, or other place, upon information or any such conventicle, and take into their custody the persons there assembled, to be proceeded against.

And it was further enacted, that this Act, and all clauses therein, be construed most largely and beneficially, for the suppressing or conventicles, and for the justification and encouragement of all persons to be employed in the execution thereof.

Thus I have recited so much of the contents of the said Act, as may show the nature and tendency of it, and which in the execution thereof, did severely affect us as a people, merely for our religious concern in serving and worshipping Almighty God, according to our religious persuasions and consciences, for which end our meetings were held, both peaceably and innocently, on our parts. And it was observable that the design of this Act was:

1. To force a general conformity to the liturgy and practice of the Church of England.

2. The agents employed for that work, were generally a company or idle, loose, profligate, and mercenary informers, by that law let loose to seek honest people's ruin, and by making great havoc and spoil or their goods.

3. Those informers were the more bold and confident in their course or persecution, eagerly pursuing peaceable subjects, and the ruin of their families, where they had some proud persecuting justices to encourage them, ready to grant them warrants, and to force officers to assist them.

4. That which animated and emboldened those informers in their prosecutions, was the clandestine course of conviction, upon the oath of two of them made before a justice or two, having for their own interest and gain, a third part of the fines; though such clandestine and partial prosecution, conviction and punishment, against free-born subjects of England, were expressly contrary to their just liberties, the great charter, and to the common law and justice of England; being also destructive or their property and birthrights.

5. Many of those mercenary informers not only very ignorantly gave information upon oath, but also many times swore falsely in fact; and many of them upon trial afterward, were proved guilty, and legally convicted of perjury, and stood in the pillory for the same, being prosecuted by other dissenters, not Quakers. Though we afterward proved many of the informers forsworn in several points of information given upon oath, wherein they swore notoriously false in fact; yet this prosecution and proof was made, and took effect against them to weaken and discourage their proceedings after the heat of persecution was much over; of which I intend a further relation hereafter.

It was observable, that many of these informers came to beggary, and some of them to miserable ends, when their trade of informing against religious meetings was ended. And what they got by their trade in making spoil upon others, did not prosper, nor turn to the king's profit, nor to that of the poor, no more than their work of persecution did preach to the honor of the king or church, which they pretended and boasted they were servants to. They in effect told us, Hey! We are servants to the king, and to the church; we will make you fanatics leave your conventicles and conform; and such like language we have often met with from them.

Upon the 5th day of the fourth month, 1670, our friends being met as usual, in a peaceable manner, at their meeting-house in Whitehart court, in Gracechurch-street, (so called,) London, where George Whitehead was moved publicly to pray to God. While praying some soldiers pulled him away and haled out of the meeting, as they did John Bolton also, an ancient citizen, for declaring the truth to the people, and advising them, who were rude, to be sober. They were both taken to the Exchange, and there kept six hours, after which, according to order, they appeared at Guild-hall, before Sir Joseph Sheldon; George Whitehead called for their accusers, to have them face to face.

Some of the soldiers were called to give evidence, and George Whitehead warned them to take heed what they swore; and he also warned Joseph Sheldon, and the rest with him, to do nothing but what they would answer before the great God, who would judge righteously. For, said he, we apprehend that we were taken contrary to law, even to the present Act, by soldiers, where there was no resistance made by any of us: we desire to be heard.

Joseph Sheldon said: If you are illegally convicted, you may make your appeal; endeavoring to stop George Whitehead from pleading.

George Whitehead: I desire to be heard. But being interrupted several times, he said, I require you in point of justice to hear me, being a free-born Englishman; at which point they did a little permit him. We would not have you that are our judges, in the meantime to prejudice your own consciences, by an illegal conviction; nor to do anything but as you will answer the great God; for we have a tenderness to your consciences.

Joseph Sheldon: Well , we must answer for what we do: take you no care for that. The witnesses being upon their oaths, one affirmed, that George Whitehead was preaching, or teaching, when they took him. Joseph Sheldon commanded the witnesses to be gone, or depart.

George Whitehead: I desire the witnesses may stay till I have answered: but Joseph Sheldon urged them still to depart.

George Whitehead: they have absolutely forsworn themselves; for I was not preaching, nor teaching, when they took me. Another that stood by the justice, said, “You were praying when they took you.”

George Whitehead: Take notice, this man has spoken truth. But the witness has forsworn himself, in saying that I was preaching. Nevertheless, the clerk wrote down, George Whitehead an offender; but what judgment was given by the justices against him or John Bolton, they did not hear, either of fine or imprisonment, at that time. The Lord was pleased sometimes to touch the consciences, even of some of the magistrates and our adversaries, by which they were stopped in their proceedings, and prevented from running us to the extreme severity and penalties or the persecuting laws.

Upon the 26th day of the fourth month, 1670, being the first-day of the week, our friends being again assembled in their meeting place before stated, in Whitehart court, Sir Samuel Starling, then lord mayor, and some others, having ordered a priest to be there, read common-prayer and preached a sermon in the gallery, seeming to preach up and excite to love, according to these Scriptures Paul, Eph 5:2, and 4:2-15; the commendation of love being the priest's chief subject. But contrary thereto in the time of his preaching, the soldiers being present to guard him and disturb us, were rude and abusive to many of our friends, for speaking a few words to the priest, to show him how contrary their actions were to his preaching; though the priest did not rebuke, or stop the soldiers from their rudeness and violence to our friends, women, as well as men.

A great concourse of people came and were present at the meeting, many to attend the priest; and many out of curiosity and novelty, to hear and see what work the priest and his company would make. For it seemed a very strange thing to see a minister or priest of the Church or England, stand up and read common-prayer, say or sing their service, and preach in a Quakers' meeting, deemed an unlawful conventicle, and therein to preach of love and charity, and at the same time to be attended and guarded with a company of soldiers, to apprehend and persecute the Quakers for an unlawful meeting or conventicle. These proceedings appeared as strange as they were inconsistent.

After the sermon had ended, George Whitehead stood up, and preached the gospel of peace and love, to show how contrary thereto persecution was. The people were quiet and still, and gave audience, and the meeting was in a peaceable posture for a little time, until two rude fellows, with the soldiers following them, violently pulled George Whitehead down, and by their force pushed down some women, and carried him to the mayor's, and kept him awhile in his yard. His name, and some false information against him, being carried to the mayor, he quickly sent out a warrant to commit him to the compter, then in the Gate-house at Bishopsgate, for making a disturbance, until he should find sureties, or was delivered by law; and thus far without first calling in, or admitting George Whitehead to be heard in his own defense.

But George Whitehead coming to have a sight of the warrant of his commitment, desired to speak with the lord mayor himself, which some of his officers made way for; when George Whitehead told the mayor, that there was a mistake in the warrant, which was that charge against him for making a disturbance, for there was no such thing; he made no disturbance, but contrariwise quieted the people by seasonable advice and counsel.

To which the mayor said, he would examine further into it after evening prayer; but in the meantime sent George Whitehead to the compter, and in the evening sent for him again, and then said to George Whitehead, “Your women have disturbed the minister;” asking him further, “Do they not disturb you?” George Whitehead answered, that there was a concourse of people of all sorts, many not being our friends, who made a noise; but for our women, some did speak something as they might judge it their duty; and probably thought they might, seeing the priest's listeners spoke; the priest one sentence, and they another, and when they cried, “Lord have mercy upon us,” some of the women did cry, “Woe to you hypocrites.”

After other discourse between George Whitehead and the mayor, the constable and another with him, were sworn; and all that they could testify was, that he stood up and preached after their minister had ended; but what he preached they could not tell. The mayor said, If the minister had done all, it was a conventicle, and I must fine you twenty pounds. And then after he said, forty pounds.

George Whitehead said, “If I had preached sedition, or discord, against either the government, or peace or the nation, if that could be made appear against me, I might justly suffer by this law, being entitled, An Act to prevent and suppress seditious conventicles. But seeing the witnesses cannot tell what I did preach, may signify the substance and tendency thereof: A necessity being laid upon me, woe had been unto me, if I had not preached the gospel; and it was no other, but the gospel of peace and salvation by Christ Jesus that I preached, to exalt the power of godliness, directing people thereunto, in Christ, that they might not remain under empty and lifeless forms of profession.”

The mayor said, I believe both you and others do good, or have done good with your acting.

George Whitehead then said, “See then how evident it is, that what we suffer is for doing good, and not for any sedition or injury.”

The mayor said, Well, I must fine you forty pounds, this being the second offence; you were convicted before Sir Joseph Sheldon once before.

George Whitehead: Must I suffer for preaching the gospel of peace, as if I had been preaching sedition? This is strange. Does the law make no difference? Besides, I was not convicted according to this law or Act, before Justice Sheldon; for it was there made appear, that the witness forswore himself against me, as some there that stood by testified; for he swore that he took me preaching, when many could testify, as some there did affirm, that I was praying, and not at that time preaching.

Mayor. But were you on your knees with your hat off when they took you?

George Whitehead. Yes, I was, and the meeting was in a reverend posture of prayer; the men with their hats off and the soldiers pulled me down where I was praying.

Mayor. However, you were in a religious exercise.

George Whitehead. If praying to God must be accounted a religious exercise not allowed by the liturgy; yet I do not understand that praying is included in that clause that mentions preaching or teaching. As where it is said, "That every person who shall take upon him to preach or teach in any such meeting, assembly, or conventicle, and shall thereof be convicted as before stated, shall for every such first offence the sum of twenty pounds forfeit." Now here is no praying mentioned, therefore I desire your judgment, whether by preaching or teaching can be meant praying.

Mayor. No, praying is not mentioned; however, your conviction is recorded; you may make your appeal.

George Whitehead. To whom shall I make my appeal, but to those that wrong me?

Mayor. I must do according to law; I must fine you forty pounds.

George Whitehead. Then I must be fined for preaching the gospel of peace, as if I had been preaching sedition. By this it is all one case to preach sedition or the gospel of peace. But such a law makes no difference between preaching sedition, and preaching the gospel of peace. I must deny the law, as being both against reason and against God. And God who judges righteously, and by whom actions are weighed, will judge between you and us in this thing.

I do not remember that the fine threatened upon this pretended conviction was ever levied upon my goods, though several others were to great excess.


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