Abbildungen der Seite

of it. He performed it also, after a trial of many months, to the entire satisfaction and even joy of his father; and he was going on in the yet diligent performance of it, when, alas ! this his very occupation (so often do the efforts made to prevent an apprehended evil become the means of introducing it) brought him eventually into the situation which his father of all others deprecated: Being accidentally on business at Cork, he heard that Thomas Loe (the layman of Oxford, mentioned in the preceding chapter to have been the person who first confirmed his early religious impressions) was to preach at a meeting of the Quakers in that city. It was impossible that he could return to his farm without seeing the man whom he considered as his greatest human benefactor, and still more without hearing his discourse. Accordingly he attended. The preacher at length rose. He began with the following text: “There is a faith which overcomes the world, and there is a faith which is overcome by the world.” On this subject he enlarged, and this in so impressive a manner that William was quite overcome. The words indeed of the text were so adapted to to his situation, that he could hardly help considering them as peculiarly addressed to himself; for, from the time of his leaving Chigwell school to the present, there had been a constant struggle between himself and the world, and this entirely on account of his faith. Such a discourse, if ably handled, must have come home to him in every sentence. He must have seen his own arduous conflict personified as it were and pourtrayed before him. He must have seen the precipice on which he had stood, with the gulf terrible below. He must have seen some angel in the picture cheering him for the efforts he had already made, and some other holding up to his view at a distance a wreath of never-fading glory, which he might gain by perseverance for the time to come. But whatever were the topics of this discourse, it is certain that William was so impressed by it, that though he had as yet not discovered a partiality for any particular sect, he favoured the Quakers as a religious body from that day.

The result of this preference was, that he began to attend their religious meetings But, alas ! he soon learnt, from the ignorant


prejudices of the times, that in following the path which his own conscience dictated to him, he had a bitter cup to drink 1 for being at one of these meetings on the third of Sepber 1667, he was apprehended on the plea of a proclamation issued in 1660 against tumultuous assemblies, and carried before the mayor. The latter, looking at him and observing that he was not clothed as others of the society were, offered him his liberty if he would give bond for his good behaviour. But William not choosing to do this, he was committed with eighteen others to prison, - He had not been long there when he wrote to Lord Orrery, then president of the council of Munster, to request his release. We find in this letter nothing either servile or degrading. It was written, on the other hand, in a manly and yet decorous manner, “Religion,” says he, “which is at once my crime and mine innocence, makes me a prisoner to a mayor's malice, but mine own free man.” He then informed the Earl of the reason of his imprisonment: he showed him, that the proclamation did not reach his case; and concluded by an appeal to his


own good sense, and to his better knowledge of theology, and by reminding him of his own conduct, when he himself was a solicitor in behalf of liberty of conscience as one of the greatest blessings which could be bestowed upon the land. This request, as far as William was concerned, was quickly granted; for the Earl immediately ordered his discharge. William Penn had now for the first time tasted persecution for having gratified his religious predilections, and had received an earnest of what he might expect if he continued publicly to indulge them in his own way. - This experience, however, had not the effect of making him desert his new Christian connections. On the other hand, it strengthened him in the resolution of a closer union with them. He had begun to suffer with them. He had begun too to suffer for their cause. Mixing therefore more intimately with them than ever, from this period, he began to be considered by many, and even to be called by some, a Quaker. The rumour that he had become a Quaker soon reached his father. It was conveyed to

him by a nobleman then resident in Ireland, who addressed him purposely on the subject. The Admiral on the receipt of this letter sent for his son. William immediately obeyed, and returned home. At the first interview all appeared to be well. There was nothing discoverable, either in his dress or his man, ners, by which the information sent concerning him could be judged to be true. In process of time, however, the concern of mind under which he occasionally laboured, his dereliction of the customs of the world, and particularly of the ceremony of the Hat, and his communion with those only of the same peculiar cast, left no doubt of the fact. The Admiral, pow more uneasy than ever, (forhe had tried his last expedient,) could no longer contain himself, but came to a direct expla. nation with his son on the subject. The scene which passed between them is described as having been peculiarly affecting. “And here,” says Joseph Besse, (the first collector. of the works of William Penn with a Journal of his Life prefixed, “my pen is diffident of her abilities to describe that most pathetic and moving contest which was between his father and him : his father actuated

« ZurückWeiter »