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Things are brave as to Truth in these parts, great conviction upon the people. My wife's dear love is to you all. I long and hope ere long to see thee. “ So, dear George Fox, am, &c.
“ Wm. Penn." There is another letter from William Penn to George Fox on the same subject, but it is unnecessary to copy it. It may suffice to say, that, after a discovery of several errors in the indictment, the release of his friend followed.
CHAP. CHAPTER XI. A. 1675—continues at Rickmansworth---converts many
holds a public dispute there with Richard Baxter--corresponds with the latter-publishes “ Saul smitten to the Ground”-writes to a Roman Catholic-arbitrates between Fenwick and Byllinge-two Letters to the
former. In the year 1675 we find him still living at Rickmansworth, where, as well as in other places, he became eminent as a minister of the Gospel. In his own neighbourhood indeed he had converted many; and from this cause, as well as from a desire which others of his own society had to live near him, the country about Rickmansworth began to abound with Quakers. This latter circumstance occasioned him, oddly enough, to be brought forward again as a public disputant; for the celebrated Richard Baxter, who was then passing that way, when he saw so many of the inhabitants of this description, began to be alarmed for their situation. He considered them as little better than lost people, and was therefore desirous of preaching to them, in order, to use his own words, “that they might once hear what was to be said for their recovery."
This coming to the ears of William Penn, he wrote to Baxter, and one letter followed another, till at length it was mutually agreed, that they should hold a public controversy on some of the more essential articles of the Quaker faith. What these were I could never learn. It is certain, however, that the parties met, and that they met at Rickmansworth. It is known also, that the contro. versy began at ten in the morning, and lasted till five in the afternoon, and that the disputants addressed themselves, each in turn, to two rooms filled with people, among whom were counted one lord, two knights, and four conformable ministers, that is, clergymen of the Established Church.
Of the issue of this controversy I can find no record. Richard Baxter seems to have been satisfied with himself on the occasion, for he says in allusion to it, “ that the success of it gave him cause to believe that it was not labour lost.” William Penn, on the other hand, spoke of it with some confidence; for, in a letter which he addressed to Richard Baxter soon afterwards, he stated, “ that if he had taken advantage of him, he could have rendered him more ridiculous than he feared his principles of love would have borne.” From the same letter we have reason to think that the meeting was not a well conducted one; for William Penn says, that “ if he should be informed, when Richard Baxter's occasions would permit a debate more methodically, and like true disputation, (which he judged more suitable before the same audience, he would endeavour to comply, though he was not without weighty affairs almost continually on his hands to furnish him with an excuse.”
This letter and the public dispute preceding it gave rise to a correspondence between the parties, in which three or four other letters were exchanged. Of the contents of those written by Richard Baxter I can find nothing, except what may be inferred from those which are extant of William Penn. I shall therefore pass both of them over, observing only, that William Penn's last letter manifested a spirit of forgiveness which exalted his character, and a spirit, by which it was apparent that, whatever he might think of the doctrine or temper of his opponent, he believed in the soundness of his heart. The conclusion of it was this : “in which dear
love of God, Richard Baxter, I do forgive thee, and desire thy good and felicity. And when I read thy letter, the many severities therein could not deter me from saying that I could freely give thee an apartment in my house and liberty therein; that I could visit, and yet discourse thee in much tender love, notwithstanding this hard entertainment from thee. I am, without harder words, “Thy sincere and loving Friend,
“WILLIAM PENN.” In the course of this year Matthew Hide, who had been very troublesome in the Quakers' meetings, by interrupting and opposing their ministers when in the performance of their worship, became sick; and being on his death-bed, and under great remorse of conscience for what he had done, he could not be easy till he had sent for George, Whitehead and others of the society, to express to them the sorrow he felt for the opposition he had given them as a people. This gave occasion to William Penn to publish a small work, which he called “Saul smitten to the Ground, being a brief but faithful Narrative of the dying Remorse of a late living Enemy, (to the People called Quakers, VOL. I. M and