« ZurückWeiter »
and Milton had pealed his organ-note-a herd of gamesters, courtesans, and duellists, diced and drank the live-long night.
A young man, pure in heart, might well turn anchoret in such a world:
The politics of Fox had also their attraction for this idealist of twenty-three. For four or five years he had been poring over Sydney's dreams. One Commonwealth had failed. He wished to see a new experiment in freedom; an experiment conducted, not by orators and soldiers acting in a worldly spirit, and with personal ends in view; but a religious and fraternal commonwealth, where every member would devote himself to God and man. Penn loved that great republican like a son, but he could never give his heart up wholly to the idea of a country governed in the pride, of intellect and virtue. Fox supplied what Sydney wanted-faith in things unseen and passionate belief in individual men. Penn found that he could feel and act with both these leaders; looking up with Sydney to the free government of Pericles and Scipio, yet denying with Fox that past example is of higher use to man than inner light.
After a few months of absence from the Navy Gardens, Penn was suffered to return, but still the Admiral held aloof from his rebellious son. He would not speak to him; he would not sit at table with him. Penn hung up his sword and coat of mail, and put into a trunk his lace and plume. He dressed in homely garments, and resigned his lucrative Clerkship of the Cheque
SWORD AND PEN (1668). Alone in his rooms at the Navy Gardens, he who had just laid down his sword, took up his pen. While the Admiral was fighting through a court intrigue of Lord Arlington and Sir Robert Howard, as the minions of Prince Rupert, Penn was engaged in struggling with the sins and sufferings of a host of men whom he regarded as agents of the Prince of Darkness. But his only weapon was, as yet, the pen.
A startling call was made to princes, priests, and people, to examine for themselves the Quaker doctrine of the inner light, in a tract called “Truth Exalted; in a short but sure testimony against all those religious faiths and worships that have been formed and followed in the darkness of apostacy,—and for that glorious Light which is risen and shines forth in the life and doctrine of the despised Quakers, is the alone good old way of life and salvation’-a boyish piece, signed, “William Penn, whom divine love constrains in holy contempt to trample upon Egypt's glory, not fearing the King's wrath, having beheld the majesty of Him who is invisible.' This kind of protest was not relished by such courtiers and buffoons as Arlington; the less so when they found how prompt the young man was to practice what he taught. In face of shrug and sneer, Penn walked among the scoffers of the Mall, his sword and feather laid aside, in simple garb, saluting those he met as thee and thou, and keeping on his hat in presence of the greatest lords. Such men of wit and rank as Rochester observed him with a pleasant smile, and bucks and bloods of lower standing were restrained from offering insult to the man of peace by what they knew of his dexterity in fence. In company with George Whitehead and Thomas Loe, he waited on the Duke of Buckingham, as one who had both power and wit to help him in his cause, and standing covered in his Grace's chamber, urged upon that flighty nobleman the policy of tolerating all opinion in the Church. The Duke sat still, while Penn denounced the stocks and pillories, to which good men were daily sentenced for their conscience' sakes, while he recited Saxon laws and Norman charters, and appealed to jurists of a later time. His Grace not only thanked his guests for coming to his house, but told them he was of their mind in such things, and would help them when he could. Not much was to be got from the mercurial Duke. They went to Arlington, Secretary of State, but Arlington, who was angry with the Admiral, put these Quakers to the door.
A few weeks after "Truth Exalted' saw the light of day, the writer gave his second essay in polemics to the world. One Jonathan Clapham, Rector of Wramplingham, in Norfolk, had abused the Quakers in ‘A Guide to True Religion,' with grotesque severity. Penn answered Clapham in ‘The Guide Mistaken,' an extremely fierce and personal piece of writing, such as the religious public loved to read. All writing was in that day highly spiced; the plays with an indecent wit, the sermons with ridiculous compliments, the controversies with personal spite. In following up the fashion of his time, Penn always called a fool a fool. His nights and days were therefore full of strife,
and in these early times, before his spirit had been tempered by the Tower and Newgate to a softer wisdom, he was rather Ensign Penn than Quaker Penn.
At this time—summer time of 1668—there lived in Spital Fields a minister of good repute named Thomas Vincent, once a student of Christ Church, Oxford, afterwards a chaplain to Robert Sydney, Earl of Leicester, and pastor of St. Mary Magdalen, Milk Street. He had been ejected from his living at the Restoration, and had afterwards obtained a pulpit in Spital Yard. This Vincent was a sound scholar and an eloquent, though a coarse divine. Now, two of Vincent's hearers, happening to stray from Spital Yard chapel to a Quaker meeting-house in the city, out of simple eagerness to know what people like the Children of Light could say for themselves, were caught, as Penn himself had been caught by Thomas Loe. These followers of Vincent left his chapel in Spital Yard, on which he turned in wrath on the seducers of his people, calling them blasphemers, hypocrites, and schismatics, and denouncing them to his flock as worthy of the fiery pit. For Vincent, though a good and worthy man, employed the controversial language of his time.
These violent words inflamed the Friends, and two of their recognised chiefs, the aged George Whitehead and the youthful William Penn, repaired to Spital Yard to ask from Thomas Vincent, as their right, a time and place where in the presence of his congregation they might answer his attacks. At first the minister of Spital Yard refused, but on their suit being pressed more warnly he consented on condition that they left the choice of time and place to him. To this condition Whitehead and Penn agreed, when Vin. cent named a certain evening as the time, and his own pulpit as the place. Such controversies were a fashion of the age; as popular as plays and bullbaits even when they turned on abstract articles of faith.
When Penn and Whitehead came to Spital Yard, attended by a body of their friends, they found the chapel densely packed by Vincent's people. Not a man could enter save the speakers, and these speakers saw too plainly that their chance of a fair hearing was but small. Yet they passed in.
George Whitehead, as the elder rose to state his views, but Vincent took exception to this course. The better way, he said, would be for him to put questions, and for the Quakers to reply, as then the Quakers would stand condemned out of their own mouths. Penn could not see the justice of this line, but Vincent's people cried, 'Yea, yea let it be so l' Alone in that vast crowd of men the Quakers were obliged to yield, and let the wrangle take such form as Vincent pleased. Then Vincent rose and asked the two “blasphemers' whether they owned one Godhead, consisting in three distinct and separate forms? Whitehead and Penn asserted that the dogma so delivered by Vincent was not found in Holy Writ. Vincent answered by a syllogism. Quoting St. John, he said :—*There are three that bear record in Heaven the Father, the Word and the Holy Spirit, and these three are one.' These three, he argued, are either three manifestations, three operations, three substances, or three somethings else besides subsistences; but they are not three manifestations, three operations, three substances, nor anything else besides three subsistences; hence, there are three separate substances, yet only one deity.' Whitehead rejected the term “subsistences' as not