Abbildungen der Seite

who had made the reflections above alluded to, the offender himself being thought un

equal to the controversy. The position to be maintained on the part of the Quakers was the universality of the divine Light. The Baptists were to speak against it. According to the laws of dispute then in force upon such occasions, it devolved upon Jeremy to speak first. He began accordingly, and went on boldly till he had expended all the arguments he had brought with him ; when finding from appearances that his auditors were not as well satisfied as he expected, he stepped down suddenly from his seat, and left the place. In doing this, he indulged a hope that his example would have been generally followed. But he was sorely disappointed ; for a small number only, who were immediately of his own party, withdrew, while the great bulk of the audience remained. To these William Penn then addressed himself. In what he advanced he experienced neither interruption nor opposition. So far he may be said to have triumphed. But he triumphed in another respect; for Jeremy, when he found that his hearers continued in their places, WaS

was so mortified, that he returned, and injudiciously expressed his disapprobation of their conduct ; the consequence of which was, that they in their turn expressed their dislike of him. At this controversy Thomas Ellwood, one of the early Quakers, and a pupil of the great John Milton, was present, who sent an account of it to a friend in these lines, written extempore on the spot :

« Prævaluit Veritas: inimici terga dedere :

Nos sumus in tuto : laus tribuenda Deo." The literal translation of this, which I have attempted in bad poetry, is the following: « Truth has prevail'd; the foe his back has shown:

Thank God! we're safe: the praise is his alone." William Penn soon after this controversy took a short journey, in the course of which it happened that he stopped at Oxford. Learning there that several of the members of his own society had been treated with great cruelty by the students on account of their religious meetings, and having reason to believe that the Vice-Chancellor himself was not blameless in that respect, he addressed to him a letter, of which I copy for its singularity the introductory sentence :

“ Shall

“Shall the multiplied oppressions, which thou continuest to heap upon innocent English people for their peaceable religious meetings, pass unregarded by the eternal God? Dust thou think to escape his fierce wrath and dreadful vengeance for thy ungolly and illegal persecution of his poor children? I tell thee, No. Better were it for thee thou hadist never been born. Poor mushroom, wilt thou war against the Lord, and lift up thyself in bactle against the Al nighty? Canst thou frustrate his holy purposes, and bring his determinations to nought? He has decreed to exalt himself by us, and to propagate his Gospel to the ends of the earth.”

Never perhaps before were the learning and dignity of a Vice-Chancellor of Oxford, as appears by this extract, so little thought of, or a Vice-Chancellor of that university looked down upon with such sovereign contempt, as on this occasion by William Penn. To inost people, the language of this letter will be unaccountable. It must be remarked, however, that the early Quakers paid but little deference to human


learning, and that at this very time they were at variance with the Universitiis concerning it, denying it to be an essential qualification for the priesthood. It must be remarked also, that honouring those ordinations of men, and those only, to the sacerdotal office, which were considered to be sealed in their hearts by the Divine Spirit, they allowed no dignity to belong to ordinations which were the mere work of the hands of men. We must remember also, what has been before noticed, their belief that they had a divine commission, in consequence of which, by preaching and bearing their testimony against religious ceremonies and worldly fashions, they were to become instruments in purifying the rest of mankind. Hence they spoke with an authórity not usual with others. To these considerations we must add, that the treatment which the poor Quakers had then received at Oxford, was enough to excite anger in any feeling mind, and that William Penn himself was still sore, if I may so speak, of his old wounds; for it was but a few weeks since he had left the bale-dock of Newgate prison, the loathsomeness of which he had


experienced in consequence of the unjust interference of some formerly belonging to this very university, and who were then at the head of the Established Church.

Having finished his journey, he retired to the ancient family seat of Penn in Buckinghamshire. Here a pamphlet falling in his way, which contained the tenets of the Roman Catholic faith, he wrote in answer to it, “A seasonable Caveat against Popery; or, An Explanation of the Roman Catholic Belief briefly exainined.” He attempted in this work to refute certain doctrines of the church of Rome, nainely, such as related to. the Scriptures-the Trinity-prayers to saints and angels --justification of merits the holy Eucharist--communion in one kind-the sacrifice of the altar- prayer in Latin--prayer for the dead--the moral law of obedience to civil magistrates—and ecclesiastical hierarchy. It must be observed, however, that though he was severe against the Catholics as to their doctrine on these points, he was a decided enemy to all persecu- tion of them on that account. He allowed in his preface to this work, that a great number of them might be abused zealots through


« ZurückWeiter »