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A Portraiture of Quakerism, Volume 1 by Clarkson

For he was no sooner out of gaol


He

was patient under his own sufferings. To those, who smote his right cheek, he offered his left; and, in the true spirit of christianity, he indulged no rancour against the worst of his oppressors. He made use occasionally of a rough expression towards them; but he would never have hurt any of them, if he had had them in his power.

He possessed the most undaunted courage; for he was afraid of no earthly power. He was never deterred from going to meetings for worship, though he knew the officers would be there, who were to seize his person. In his personal conversations with Oliver Cromwell, or in his letters to him as protector, or in his letters to the parliament, or to king Charles the second, or to any other personage, he discovered his usual boldness of character, and never lost, by means of any degrading flattery, his dignity as a man.

But his perseverance was equal to his courage; for he was no sooner out of gaol, than he repeated the very acts, believing them to be right, for which he had been confined. When he was forced also out of the meeting-houses by the officers of justice, he preached at the very doors. In short, he was never hindered but by sickness, or imprisonments, from persevering in his religious pursuits.

With respect to his word, he was known to have held it so sacred, that the judges frequently dismissed him without bail, on his bare promise that he would

be forth coming on a given day. On these occasions, he used always to qualify his promise by the expression, _"if the Lord permit."_

Of the integrity of his own character, as a christian, he was so scrupulously tenacious, that, when he might have been sometimes set at liberty by making trifling acknowledgements, he would make none, least it should imply a conviction, that he had been confined for that which was wrong; and, at one time in particular, king Charles the second was so touched with the hardship of his case, that he offered to discharge him from prison by a pardon. But George Fox declined it on the idea, that, as pardon implied guilt, his innocence would be called in question by his acceptance of it. The king, however, replied, that "he need not scruple being released by a pardon, for many a man who was as innocent as a child, had had a pardon granted him." But still he chose to decline it. And he lay in gaol, till, upon a trial of the errors in his indictment, he was discharged in an honourable way.

As a minister of the gospel, he was singularly eminent. He had a wonderful gift in expounding the scriptures. He was particularly impressive in his preaching; but he excelled most in prayer.

Here it was, that he is described by William Penn, as possessing the most awful and reverend frame he ever beheld. His presence, says the same author, expressed "a religious majesty." That there must have been something more than usually striking either in his manner, or in his language, or in his arguments, or in all of them combined, or that he spoke "in the _demonstration_ of the spirit and with power," we are warranted in pronouncing from the general and powerful effects produced. In the year 1648, when he had but once before spoken in public, it was observed of him at Mansfield, at the end of his prayer, _"that it was then, as in the days of the apostles, when the house was shaken where they were."_ In the same manner he appears to have gone on, making a deep impression upon his hearers, whenever he was fully and fairly heard. Many clergymen, as I observed before, in consequence of his powerful preaching, gave up their livings; and constables, who attended the meetings, in order to apprehend him, felt themselves disarmed, so that they went away without attempting to secure his person.


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