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At the close of the Protectorate we find him imprisoned in York Castle with five hundred other Friends. Better to have been a highwayman than a Quaker in those days. In 1661 we discover him in Newgate. A year later and he is again in York Castle. Eight years' imprisonment in Warwick gaol follow upon this. A brief respite, devoted to missionary labour, ensues, and another course of imprisonment, extending over six years, succeeds.
To know what serenity reigned in Dewsbury's thought during these apparently cheerless times of durance, we have only to look at some of bis smaller essays—quiet, cheerful, theological fantasie of a mind flooded with the glories of the New Jerusalem. One of these is entitled “ The Breathings of Life to God's Spiritual Israel ; through a faithful follower of the Lamb, in the regeneration and kingdom of patience and tribulation, and now a sufferer in bonds for the testimony of the Lord Jesus.” As William talks to the “ dear children of the Immortal Birth," and discourses of the “true way of standing in the
marriage-union' of the Christ-life, he shows beyond question he had indeed died into' the eternal blessedness of the Paradise of God."
Another pleasing document is “ The Word of the Lord to Sion ; the New Jerusalem, the Bride the Lamb's Wife, the Excellency of all the Glory that is amongst the People.” As you read the fervid utterances you feel half inclined to question the teachings of experience, and to take Dewsbury's word where he assures you that though this Divine City be now in deep sufferings, yet will its Maker right speedily “clear the innocency” of her children ; and "all the nations of the earth shall call her the Blessed of the Lord.”
Sublime, even if indefinite, was the conception Dewsbury had of what the New Jerusalem Church of the future had to be. He looked around him and saw how some Churches were built upon a worthless doctrinalism; others upon arithmetic and superstition ; others again upon perfumery and the worship of stupidity: to him there was another Church in and of the Light ;a Church of intuition resting upon truth, hallowed by knowledge, and--from the deep secrets of the Spirit's revealing-gaining continual increase of strength for the exercises of aspiration, delight for the quiet hours of thought, superhuman capability for carrying forward Divine uses in this work-a-day world of God. Thus when Fifth-Monarchy men preached of a coming Millennarianism, Dewsbury, like George Fox, could say, Here is one already begun, for it is a new Life presupposing manliness in the sense of God likeness. His great
mistake was in thinking that the oak could be produced from the acorn in an hour.
We pass on to the year 1680 ; the place Warwick goal, in which lingers a feeble old man, William Dewsbury. Many years has he known the solitude of that place—nineteen altogether before he left it-and he now sits there heart-weary by the side of a dying one, his grandchild Mary, a little maiden of twelve summers. The little thing had left her Bedfordshire home and had taken up her abode with her grandfather, "prisoner for the testimony of the Lord Jesus Christ."
Little Mary had been a gladsome light-giver to the old missionary, in the exceptional hours of sorrow which could not but sometimes come over him. “Dear grandfather, I shall die to-day,” said she, "and a grave shall be made, and my body put into a hole; and my soul shall go to heavenly joy, yea, to heavenly joy and everlasting peace for evermore."
“Dear grand-daughter, I shall come as fast as the Lord orders my way," answered Dewsbury.
Later on, that same day, the old man said to her, “The chimes are going four.” Little Mary replied that she thought it had been more; she turned to win a brief change in sleep. As the “chimes” went five she breathed her last, and the frail form of the soldier of yore must remain companionless in that cell.
Seven years more pass by. King James's Declaration of Indulgence is proclaimed, and William Dewsbury is once more free. Again he resumes his missionary labours !
“ Sowing the seed with an aching heart,
Sowing the seed while the tear-drops start, -
Gladly to gather the harvest home." In the following spring our hero is in London, and going to the meeting for worship at Gracechurch Street, is there moved of the Lord to preach. Sewel preserves that sermon in his History of the Quakers, and it shows how gloriously still burnt the fire of poetic rapture on the altar of the old man's heart. It was the same mysticism, the same earnestness as of old. Imagine yourself listening to Dewsbury, as, standing face to face with you, he gives utterance to sentences like the following :
“If thou diligently wait, thou shalt see more light; then the sword that proceeds out of the mouth of Christ who is called the Word of God will cut thee off from all thy hopes of salvation, from anything thou hast done, from any of thy qualifications, from anything that thou canst do; so that thou wilt be a hopeless soul, nothing in thine own sense and apprehension. The power of the first Adam must die before Him, and thou wilt cry out, 'I am a dead, lost, and undone creature ; but there is life hid with Christ in God for me, but I can never have it, till I be slain into the will of God, and become as a little child, and be stripped of all my own excellency that I have attained ; I must come to a sense of my own misery, and fall down at the foot of God. When I am become as a little child, humbled and slain as to my own will and confidence in my own righteousness, I will not then question but I shall live a holy life, but I will give all that life I had, for that life which is hid with Christ in God.' Oh! there is none come so far that ever miss of eternal life. All shuffling people, that would have salvation by Christ and will not let Him exercise His heavenly power-His princely, glorious power to baptize them into His death-it is they that come short of salvation.”
In such frank exhortations there is doubtless much to which the cynical critic would take objection; he would see “revivalist sensationalism ” in it. One thing consequently he could scarcely expect to see ; namely, that between such preachers, and hearers welcoming such preaching, the pure would answer to the pure in one anotherthe life respond to the life. To such Dewsbury speaks :
“You will never complain of sin till you are burdened with it, till you have a trumpet sounding in your ears to awaken you that you may arise from the dead, that Christ may give you life. There is no other way, dear people ! You must bring your deeds to the light of Christ and abide in the sentence of condemnation. ... What is it the better for you to read the Scripture if you know not the fiery baptism which all must know that are regenerated ! ... Think it not sufficient to live in an outward observance of the ways of God. If your own wills be alive and your corruptions remain unmortified, the judgment of God will be your portion. Therefore, in the Lord's name, come along with me; I am come to declare what I have heard and seen of the Father, ... Read the Book of Conscience ; hast thou no ground for thy faith ?”
This preaching was in the month of March 1688: a month later and William Dewsbury lies dying at Warwick. A few Friends are in the old man's chamber; solemn converse goes on; it is known to all that death is there. Rising up in his bed, and in a weak but distinct voice, the peacemaker gives forth the following testimony :
“My God hath yet put it into my heart to bear a testimony in His Name and blessed Truth ; and I can never forget the day of His great power and blessed appearance when He first sent me to preach His Everlasting Gospel, and to proclaim the day of the Lord to all the people. And he confirmed the same by signs and wonders; and particularly by a lame woman who went on crutches, where I, with my dear brethren, George Fox and Richard Farnsworth were cast, and as I cried mightily unto the Lord in secret, that he would signally manifest Himself at that time amongst as, and give witness of His power and presence
with us, Richard Farnsworth, in the name of the Lord, took her by the hand, and George Fox after, spoke to her in the power of the Lord and bade her stand up, and she did, and immediately walked straight, having no need of crutches any more. Therefore, friends, be faithful and trust in the Lord your God : for this I can say, I never since played the coward ; but joyfully entered prisons as palaces, telling mine enemies to hold me there as long as they could. And in the prison-house I sang praises to my God, and esteemed the bolts and locks put upon me as jewels ; and in the name of the eternal God I always got the victory ; for they could keep me no longer than the determined time of my God.... And this I have further to signify, that my time draws nigh. Blessed be my God! I am prepared. I have nothing to do but die, and put off this corrupt mortal tabernacle, this flesh that hath so many infirmities. But the life that dwells in it transcends above all, out of the reach of death, hell, and the grave : immortality and eternal life are my crown for ever and ever. Therefore, you that are left behind, fear not, nor be discouraged ; but go on in the name and the power of the Lord : bear a faithful and living testimony for Him in your day. And the Lord will prosper His work in your hand, and cause His truth to flourish and spread abroad : it shall have the victory and no weapon formed against it shall prosper. The Lord hath determined it shall possess the gates of its enemies ; and the glory and the light thereof shall shine more and more until the perfect day.”
A week afterwards, and William Dewsbury had passed from earth -his loss to Friends a serious one. A little later and we find George Fox himself preparing to depart. As the beginnings of Quakerism were with these men, we will accompany both to their graves. George's last epistle was to Friends in Ireland. He now encouraged them with many happy assurances. He told them of progress at home, and how in Holland and Germany there was love, with unity and peace ; while in Jamaica, Barbadoes, Nevis, Antigua, Maryland, and New England, the prospects were altogether cheering. “Christ the Seed reigns," said he, “and His power is over all.”
The day after writing this, George went to a meeting at Gracechurch Street. The gathering was large and the Father of Quakerism was led to speak, “ opening many deep and weighty things with great power and clearness.” Going over to Henry Goldney's house afterwards, he told those who were with him that he thought “ he felt the cold strike to his heart as he came out of the meeting.” “But," added he, “I am glad I was here; now I am clear, I am fully clear [of responsibility].” Twice he lay down after this, but the chill remained ; and at length, under the sense of rapid sinking, the old man was again persuaded to lie down. George felt he was dying ; he therefore gave instructions respecting the spread of truth by books and preaching. “All is well!" said he, to Friends standing round him ; “the Seed of God remains over all and over death itself.” A
few more words and death came—it came lovingly. The veteran who through a long lifetime had retained so much of childhood's innocence, confidence, purity and hopefulness—George Fox, sank into death as unfearingly as a child seeks repose on its pillow—the day's fatigues all done.
“ So fades a summer cloud away,
So sinks the gale when storms are o'er,
So dies a wave along the shore.
Fanned by some angel's purple wing;
And where, insidious death, thy sting!”
(L EO GRINDON.)
THE FIG-TREE (CONCLUDED). How profoundly figs were esteemed as an article of household consumption by the Hebrews we may gather from a curious incident in the life of David, related in 1 Sam. xxv. and xxx. At Carmel, B.C. 1061, lived a certain wealthy landowner of the name of Nabal. He was possessed of 1000 goats and 3000 sheep, and appears to have owned spacious and fruitful vineyards. The animals, while at pasture in the wilderness, David had often protected from the thievish Arabs, thus recommending himself to the good offices, in reciprocity, of the farmer. One day, however, when David, a little embarrassed for want of provisions, sends to Nabal with request for a supply, his messengers are not only refused, but treated churlishly. David, highly incensed, makes preparations to destroy the whole establishment, and to this end is about to advance with his band of troopers. Abigail, the farmer's wife, a woman of good understanding, and of a beautiful countenance," perceives that David must be pacified forth with. With the promptitude of her sex, she starts at once, carrying a handsome present, the produce of the estate, and which includes, among other eatables, “an hundred clusters of raisins, and two hundred cakes of figs." David accepts the gift, no doubt conciliated in part by the lady's ways, just as Edward III. was, in a later age, when Queen Philippa begged the lives of the Calais burghers, and Nabal is forgiven. Such, however, is the effect upon the mind of the farmer, when he hears of wja: