By John Roberts
The steps of a good man are ordered by the Lord; and he delighteth in his way. He is his strength in the time of trouble. Psalm 37:23, 39.
I have had it on my mind for some years past to commit to writing some memorable passages, the chief of which were transacted in my time, together with some short account of our family.
My grandfather's name was John Roberts, alias Hayward. He lived at a village called Siddington, within a mile of Cirencester in Gloucestershire. I have heard he lived reputably on a little estate of his own which he occupied. He married Mary Solliss, sister to Andrew Solliss, Esq., who was in the commission of the peace, and sustained great spoil in the time of the civil war between king Charles I. and the Parliament. I have heard that a colonel and his men and horses quartered themselves upon him a considerable time together, turning their horses to the corn and hay mows.
My father and his next neighbor went into the army under Oliver Cromwell and continued till they heard Cirencester was taken by the king's party when they thought proper to return home to see how it fared with their parents and relations.
As they were passing by Cirencester, they were discovered and pursued by two soldiers of the king's party then in possession of the town. Seeing themselves pursued they quitted their horses and took to their heels, but by reason of their accouterments could make little speed. They came up with my father first and though he begged for quarter, none would they give him but laid on him with their swords, cutting and slashing his hands and arms which he held up to save his head, as the marks upon them did long after testify.
At length it pleased the Almighty to put it into his mind to fall down on his face, which he did. Hereupon the soldiers being on horseback cried to each other, "Alight and cut his throat!" But neither of them did. Yet they continued to strike and prick him about the jaws, till they thought him dead. Then they left him and pursued his neighbor, whom they presently overtook and killed. Soon after they had left my father, it was said in his heart, "Rise, and flee for thy life," which call he obeyed and starting upon his feet his enemies espied him in motion and pursued him again.
He ran down a steep hill and through a river, which ran at the bottom of it, though with exceeding difficulty, his boots filling with water and his wounds bleeding very much. They followed him to the top of the hill, but seeing that he had got over, they pursued him no further. He was at a loss which way to take in this wounded and disconsolate condition, being surrounded with enemies on every hand.
At length he determined to go to his uncle Solliss', from whence he sent a servant to a widow at Cirencester at whose house the chief officers lay, with whom he was acquainted, desiring her to come to him, which she readily did and offered him all the service in her power. He desired her, as the principal officers lay at her house, to use her interest with them to give command that none of the soldiers might offer him any abuse, which she effected, and in good will to her they likewise sent their ablest surgeon to him. He was a man of great skill, but of a sour disposition, for he told my father that if he had met him in the field, he would have killed him himself. "But now," said he, "I will cure you," which he did.
When my father found himself able, he went to his father's house and found him very ill in bed. They greeted each other with many tears and a great intermixture of joy and sorrow. After some time my father perceived him to tremble to such a degree that the bed shook under him. Upon this my father asked him how it was with him. He replied, "I am well. I feel no pain,-it is the mighty power of God that shakes me." After lying still some time, he broke out in a sweet melody of spirit, saying, "In the Lord only have I righteousness and strength! In God have I salvation!" I do not remember to have heard that he said anything more before his departure.
The civil war continuing, my father found he could not be safe at home and therefore he went again and continued till near the conclusion of that dreadful eruption. Then he returned again to his sorrowful family at Siddington.
After some time he took to wife Lydia Tindall, daughter of Thomas Tindall of Slincomb, near Dursley, a religious family and one of those under the denomination of Puritans. Matthew Hale, afterwards lord chief justice of England, was her kinsman and drew her marriage settlement. It pleased God to give them six children, viz., John, Joseph, Lydia, Thomas, Nathaniel and Daniel. Joseph and Lydia died young and Thomas was killed at the age of fourteen by a kick from a mare. The rest lived to man's estate.
In the year 1665 it pleased the Lord to send two women Friends out of the north to Cirencester who inquiring after such as feared God were directed to my father as the likeliest person to entertain them. They came to his house and desired a meeting. He granted it and invited several of his acquaintance to sit with them. After some time of silence, the Friends spake a few words which had a good effect. After the meeting, my father endeavored to engage them in discourse, but they said little, only recommending him to Richard Farnsworth, then a prisoner for the testimony of Truth in Banbury jail, to whom they were going.
Upon this recommendation my father went shortly after to the prison in order to converse with Richard, where he met with the two women who had been at his house. The turnkey was denying them entrance and telling them he had an order not to let any of those giddy-headed people in and therefore if they did go in, he would keep them there. But upon my father's desire they were admitted in along with him and conducted through several rooms to a dungeon where Richard Farnsworth was preaching through a grate to the people in the street.
Soon after they came in, he desisted, and after a little time of silence, turning to them, he spake to this purpose, that Zaccheus, being a man of low stature and having a mind to see Christ, ran before and climbed up into a sycamore tree. And our Savior, knowing his good desires, called to him, "Zaccheus, come down. This day is salvation come to thy house." Thus, Zaccheus was like some in our day who are climbing up into the tree of knowledge, thinking to find Christ there. But the word now is, "Zaccheus come down, come down, for that which is to be known of God is manifested within." This, with more to the same purpose, was spoken in such authority that when my father came home he told my mother he had seen Richard Farnsworth who had spoken to his condition as if he had known him from his youth. From this time he patiently bore the cross.
Afterwards, when it pleased God to communicate to him a portion of the knowledge of his blessed Truth, a necessity was laid upon him one First-day morning to go to the public worship-house in Cirencester in the time of worship, not knowing what might be required of him there. He went, and standing with his hat on, the priest was silent for some time. Being asked why he did not go on, he answered that he could not while that man stood with his hat on. Upon this some took him by the arm and led him into the street, staying at the door to keep him out. But after waiting a little in stillness, he found himself clear and passed away.
As he passed the market-place, the tie of his shoe slackened, and while he stooped down to fasten it, a man came behind him and struck him on the back a hard blow with a stone, saying, "There, take that for Jesus Christ's sake!" He answered, "So I do," not looking back to see who it was, but quietly going on his way. A few days after a man came and asked him forgiveness, telling him that he was the unhappy man that gave him the blow on his back, and he could have no rest since he had done it.
Not long after, three Friends came that way who found the like concern, viz., Robert Silvester, Philip Grey and Thomas Onyon. These standing in the steeple-house with their hats on, though they said nothing, the priest was silent. And being asked if he was not well, he answered that he could not go forward whilst those dumb dogs stood there. Wherefore the people dragged them out, and the priest afterwards informing a justice that they had interrupted him in divine service, they were bound over to the quarter sessions.
My father, at their desire, accompanied them to the sessions and when they were called and the priest had accused them, the bench, in a rage, without asking them any questions, ordered their mittimus to be made. This unjust and illegal proceeding kindled my father's zeal, insomuch that he stepping forward called to the justices, saying, "Are not those who sit on the bench sworn to do justice? Is there not a man among you that will do the thing that is right?"
Whereupon John Stephens, of Lipeat, then chairman, cried out, "Who are you, sirrah? What is your name?" My father telling him his name, he said, "I am glad that I have you here. I have heard of you-you deserve a stone doublet. There is many an honester man than you hanged."
"It may be so," answered my father, "but what dost thou think becomes of those who hang honest men?"
The justice replied, "I will send you to prison. And if any insurrection or tumult be in the land, I will come and cut your throat first with my own sword, for I fear to sleep in my bed lest such fanatics should come and cut my throat." And snatching up a ball of wax, he violently threw it at my father, who avoided the blow by stepping aside. Their mittimuses were then made, and they were all sent to prison.
The same evening my uncle Solliss, who was one of the justices on the bench, came to the prison and calling for my father asked him if he was willing to have his liberty to go home to his wife and family. "Upon what terms, uncle!" said my father.
Uncle. Upon such terms that the jailer open the door and let you out.
John Roberts. What, without entering into any recognizance?
John Roberts. Then I accept of my liberty. But I admire, uncle, how thou and several others could sit upon the bench as with your thumbs in your mouths when you should speak a word in behalf of the innocent.
Uncle. You must learn to live under a law, cousin. And if you will accept of your liberty till next sessions, you may have it. If not, stay where you are.
So they parted and on the morrow my father went home, having also the jailer's leave.
In the night a concern came upon him with such weight that it made him tremble till the bed shook under him. My mother asking the reason of it, he answered, "The Lord requires hard things of me. If it would please him, I had rather lay down my life than obey him in what he requires at my hands."
To this my mother replied, "If thou art fully persuaded that the Lord requires it of thee, I would not have thee disobey him, for he will require nothing of us but what he will enable us to go through. Therefore, we have good cause to trust in him."
On this he said, "I must go to this John Stephens, who is my great enemy and sent me to prison where he said he would secure me. And as my uncle Solliss in kindness has given me leave to come home, I can expect no favor from him if I now go and run myself into the mouth of my adversary. But I must go, whatever I suffer."
He arose and prepared for his journey, but durst eat or drink nothing. When he mounted his horse, the command of the Lord was unto him, "Remember Lot's wife! Look not back." So on he rode very cheerfully eight or nine miles, till he came within sight of the justice's house. And then he let in the reasoner who reasoned him out of all his courage, presenting to his mind that his uncle Solliss and his neighbors would say that he had no regard for his wife and family thus to push himself into the hands of his greatest enemy.
This brought such a cloud over his mind that he alighted off his horse and sat down upon the ground to spread his cause before the Lord. After he had waited some time in silence, the Lord appeared and dissipated the cloud, and his word was to him, "Go, and I will go with thee and will give thee a threshing instrument, and thou shalt thresh the mountains." Now he was exceedingly overcome with the love of God, and I have often heard him say that he was filled like a vessel that wanted vent and said in his heart, "Thy presence is enough,'' proceeding to the house with great satisfaction.
It being pretty early in the morning and seeing the stable door open, he went to the groom and desired him to put up his horse. While this was doing, the justice's son and his clerk came up. The latter roughly said, "I thought you had been in Gloucester castle."
John Roberts. So I was.
Clerk. And how came you out?
John Roberts. When thou hast authority to demand it, I can give thee an answer. But my business is with thy master, if I may speak with him.
Clerk. You may, if you will promise to be civil.
John Roberts. If thou seest me uncivil, I desire thee to tell me of it.
They went in and my father following them. They bid him take a turn in the hall and they would acquaint the justice of his being there. He was soon called in and my father no sooner saw him but he believed that the Lord had been at work upon him, for as he had behaved to him with the fierceness of a lion before, he now appeared like a lamb. Meeting him with a pleasant countenance and taking him by the hand, he said, "Friend Haywood, how do you do?"
My father answered, "Pretty well," and then proceeded thus, "I am come in the fear and dread of heaven to warn thee to repent of thy wickedness with speed, lest the Lord cut the thread of thy life and send thee to the pit that is bottomless. I am come to warn thee in great love, whether thou wilt hear or forbear, and to preach the everlasting gospel unto thee."
The justice replied, "You are a welcome messenger to me. That is what I have long desired to hear."
"The everlasting gospel," returned my father, "is the same that God sent his servant John to declare when he saw an angel flying through the midst of heaven, saying with a loud voice, 'Fear God and give glory to his name, and worship him who made heaven and earth, the sea, and the fountains of water.'"
The justice then caused my father to sit down by him on a couch and said, "I believe your message is of God, and I receive it as such. I am sorry I have done you wrong and I will never wrong you more. I would pray you to forgive me and to pray to God to forgive me."
After much more discourse, he offered my father the best entertainment his house afforded, but my father excused himself from eating or drinking with him at that time, expressing his kind acceptance of his love. And so in much love they parted.
The same day William Dewsbury had appointed a meeting at Tedbury whither my mother went. But she was so concerned on account of my father's exercise that she could receive little benefit from the meeting. After the meeting was ended, William Dewsbury walked to and fro in a long passage, groaning in spirit, and by and by came up to my mother, and though she was a stranger to him, he laid his hand upon her head, and said, "Woman, thy sorrow is great. I sorrow with thee." Then walking a little to and fro, as before, he came to her again, and said, "Now the time is come that those who marry must be as though they married not, and those who have husbands, as though they had none, for the Lord calls for all to be offered up."
By this she saw that the Lord had given him a sense of her great burden. For she had not discovered her exercise to any and it gave her such ease in her mind that she went home rejoicing in the Lord. She no sooner got home but she found my father returned from Lipeat where his message was received in such love, as was far from their expectation, the sense of which brake them into tears in consideration of the great goodness of God in so eminently making way for and helping them that day.
At the next sessions my father and the three Friends appeared in court where, as soon as justice Stephens espied them, he called to my father and said, "John, I accept of your appearance and discharge you, and the court discharges. You may go about your business." But my father thinking his work not done did not hasten out of court, upon which the clerk demanded his fees.
John Roberts. What, dost thou mean money?
Clerk. Yes, what do you think I mean?
John Roberts. I do not know that I owe any man here anything but love, and must I now purchase my liberty with money? I do not accept it on such terms.
Clerk (to the chairman.) An't please your worship, John will not pay the fees of the court.
John Roberts. I do not accept my liberty on such terms.
Then he was ordered to prison with the three Friends. But in the evening the clerk discharged them and ever after carried himself very kindly to my father.
He was afterwards cast into prison for tithes at Cirencester by George Bull, vicar of Upper Siddington, where was confined at the same time, upon the same account, Elizabeth Hewlings, a widow of Amney, near Cirencester. She was a good Christian and so good a midwife that her confinement was a loss to that side of the country, insomuch that lady Dunch, of Down-Amney, thought it would be an act of charity to the neighborhood to purchase her liberty by paying the priest's demand, which she did.
She likewise came to Cirencester in a coach and sent her footman, Alexander Cornwall, to the prison to bring Elizabeth to her. And while Elizabeth was making ready to go with the man, my father and he fell into a little discourse. He asked my father his name and where his home was, which when my father had told him, he said, "What, are you that John Haywood of Siddington who keeps great conventicles at your house?"
My father answered, "The church of Christ often meets at my house. I suppose I am the man that thou meanest."
"I have often," replied Cornwall, "heard my lady speak of you, and I am sure she would gladly be acquainted with you."
When he returned to his lady, he told her that he had met with such a man in the prison as he believed she would not suffer to lie in prison for conscience-sake, informing her withal who he was. She immediately bid him to go back and fetch him to her. Accordingly he came to the jail and told my father his lady wanted to speak to him.
My father answered, "If any body would speak with me, they must come where I am, for I am a prisoner."
"Oh," said Cornwall, "I will get leave of the jailer for you to go," which he did. And when they came before the lady, she put on a majestic air to see how the Quaker would greet her. He went up towards her, and bluntly said, "Woman, wouldst thou speak with me?"
Lady. What is your name?
John Roberts. My name is John Roberts, but I am commonly known by the name of John Haywood in the place where I live.
Lady. Where do you live?
John Roberts. At a village called Siddington, about a mile distant from this town.
Lady. Are you the man that keeps conventicles at your house?
John Roberts. The church of Christ do often meet at my house. I presume I am the man that thou meanest.
Lady. What do you lie in prison for?
John Roberts. Because for conscience sake I cannot pay an hireling priest what he demands of me. Therefore he, like the false prophets of old, prepares war against me because I cannot put into his mouth.
Lady. By what I have heard of you, I took you be a wise man. If you could not pay him yourself, you might let somebody else pay him for you.
John Roberts. That would be underhand dealing, and I had rather pay him myself than be such a hypocrite.
Lady. Then suppose some neighbor or friend should pay him for you, unknown to you. Would you choose not to lie in prison when you might have your liberty?
John Roberts. I am very well content where I am till it shall please God to make way for my freedom.
Lady. I have a mind to set you at liberty so that I may have some of your company, which I cannot well have while you are in the prison.
Then, speaking to her man she bid him go to the priest's attorney and tell him she would satisfy him, and then pay the jailer his fees and get a horse for my father to go to Down-Amney with her.
John Roberts. If thou art a charitable woman, as I take thee to be, there are abroad in the world many real objects of charity on whom to bestow thy bounty. But to feed such devourers as these, I do not think to be charity. They are like Pharaoh's lean kine. They eat up the fat and the goodly, and look not a whit the better.
Lady. Well, I would have you get ready to go with us.
John Roberts. I do not know thou art like to have me when thou hast bought and paid for me, for if I may have my liberty, I shall think it my place to be at home with my wife and family. But if thou desirest it, I intended to come and see thee at Down-Amney some other time.
Lady. That will suit me better. But set your time, and I will lay aside all other business to have your company.
John Roberts. If it please God to give me life, health, and liberty, I intend to come on Seventh-day next, the day thou callest Saturday.
Lady. Is that as far as you used to promise?
John Roberts. Yes.
According to his appointment my father went and found her very inquisitive about the things of God and very attentive to the truths he delivered. She engaged him likewise a second time and treated him with abundance of regard. A third time she bid her man Cornwall to go to him and the priest Careless, of Cirencester, and desire him to come and take a dinner with her at the same time and not let either of them know the other was to be there.
On the day appointed my father went and when he had got within sight of her house, he heard a horse behind him, and looking back, he saw the priest following him, which made him conclude that the lady had projected to bring them together. When the priest came up to him, "Well overtaken, John," said he, "how far are you going this way?"
My father answered, "I believe we are both going to the same place."
"What!" said Careless, "are you going to the great house?"
"Yes," said my father.
"Come on then, John," said he.
So then they went in together. And the lady being ill in bed, a servant went up and informed her that they were come. "What!" said she, "did they come together?" "Yes," answered the servant. "I admire at that," said she. "But do you beckon John out and bring him to me first up the back stairs." When my father came up, she told him that she had been very ill in a fit of the stone, and said, "I have heard you have done good in many distempers."
John Roberts. I confess I have, but to this of the stone I am a stranger. Indeed I once knew a man who lived at ease and fared delicately, as thou mayest do, and whilst he continued in that practice he was much afflicted with that distemper. But it pleased the Lord to visit him with the knowledge of his blessed truth, which brought him to a more regular and temperate life, and this preserved him more free from it.
Lady. Oh! I know what you aim at. You want to have me a Quaker. And I confess, if I could be such an one as you are, I would be a Quaker tomorrow. But I understand Mr. Careless is below and though you are men of different persuasions, I account you both wise and godly men, and some moderate discourse of the things of God between you, I believe would do me good.
John Roberts. If he ask me any questions, as the Lord shall enable me, I shall endeavor to give him an answer.
She then had the parson up. And after a compliment or two, she said, "I made bold to send for you to take an ordinary dinner with me, though I am disappointed of your company by my illness. But John Haywood and you, being persons of different persuasions, though I believe both good Christians, if you would soberly ask and answer each other a few questions, it would divert me so that I should be less sensible of the pains I lie under.
Priest. An't please your ladyship, I see nothing in that.
Lady. Pray, Mr. Careless, ask John some questions.
Priest. It will not edify your ladyship, for I have discoursed John and several others of his persuasion divers times, and I have read their books, and all to no purpose. For they sprang from the Papists and hold the same doctrine the Papists do. Let John deny it if he can.
John Roberts. I find thou art setting us out in very black characters with design to affright me. But therein thou wilt be mistaken. I advise thee to say no worse of us than thou canst make out, and then make us as black as thou canst. And if thou canst prove me a Papist in one thing, with the help of God I will prove thee like them in ten. And this woman who lies here in bed shall be judge.
Priest. The Quakers hold that damnable doctrine and dangerous tenet of perfection in this life and so do the Papists. If you go about to deny it, John, I can prove you hold it.
John Roberts. I doubt thou art now going about to belie the Papists behind their backs, as thou hast heretofore done by us. For by what I have learnt of their principles, they do not believe a state of freedom from sin and acceptance with God possible on this side the grave. And therefore they have imagined to themselves a place of purgation after death. But whether they believe such a state attainable or no, I do.
Priest. An't please your ladyship, John has confessed enough out of his own mouth, for that is a damnable doctrine and dangerous tenet.
John Roberts. I would ask thee one question. Dost thou own a purgatory?
John Roberts. Then the Papists in this case are wiser than thee. They own the saying of Christ who told the unbelieving Jews, "If ye die in your sins, whither I go ye cannot come." But by thy discourse, thou and thy followers must needs go headlong to destruction since thou neither ownest a place of purgation after death nor such a preparation for heaven to be possible in this life as is absolutely necessary. The Scripture thou knowest tells us, "Where death leaves us, judgment will find us. If a tree falls towards the north or south, there it shall lie." And since no unclean thing can enter the kingdom of heaven, pray tell this poor woman, whom thou hast been preaching to for thy belly, whether ever, or never, she must expect to be freed from her sins and made fit for the kingdom of heaven or whether the blind must lead the blind till both fall into the ditch.
Priest. No, John, you mistake me. I believe that God Almighty is able of his great mercy to forgive persons their sins and fit them for heaven a little before they depart this life.
John Roberts. I believe the same. But if thou wilt limit the Holy One of Israel, how long wilt thou give the Lord leave to fit a person for his glorious kingdom.
Priest. It may be an hour or two.
John Roberts. My faith is a day or two, as well as an hour or two.
Priest. I believe so, too.
John Roberts. Or a week or two.
And my father carried it to a month or two, and so gradually till he brought it to seven years, the priest confessing he believed the same. With this my father thus proceeded, "How couldst thou accuse me of popery in holding this doctrine which thou thyself hast confessed to? If I am like a Papist, thou art, by thy own confession, as like a Papist as I am. And if it be a damnable doctrine and dangerous tenet in the Quakers, is it not the same in thyself? Thou toldest me that I mistook thee, but hast not thou mistaken thyself in condemning thine own acknowledged opinion when uttered by me? But notwithstanding thou hast failed in making me out to be a Papist in this particular, canst thou do it in any thing else?"
Upon this the priest being mute, my father thus proceeded, "Well! though thou hast failed in proving me like them, it need not hinder me from showing thee to be so in many things. For instance, you build houses and consecrate them, calling them churches, as do the Papists. You hang bells in them and consecrate them, calling them by the names of saints. So do they. The pope and the priests of the Roman church wear surplices, gowns, cassocks, &c., calling them their ornaments. Here thou hast the like and dost thou not style them thy ornaments? You consecrate the ground where you inter your dead, calling it holy ground, and so do they. In short, thou art like a Papist in so many things, he need be a wise man to distinguish betwixt them and thee."
At this the priest appeared uneasy and said to the lady, "Madam, I must beg your excuse, for there is to be a lecture this afternoon and I must be there." She pressed him to stay to dinner, but he earnestly desired to be excused. So a slice or two being cut off the spit, he ate and took his leave.
The lady then said to my father that had she not seen it, she could not have believed Mr. Careless could have been so foiled in discourse by any man. "For," said she, "I accounted him as sound and orthodox a divine as any was. But now I must tell you that I am so far of your opinion that if you will let me know when you have a meeting at your house and somebody to preach, not a silent meeting, I will come and hear them myself.
My father answered that he expected she would be as good as her word. Not long after came two friends to my father's house, and though the weather was very severe, he found he could not be easy without acquainting her with it. So he went to her house, but she seemed a little surprised, saying, "What is your will now, John?" He informed her of the two friends, and their intention of having a meeting at his house. "How can you expect," said she, "that I should go out in such weather as this! You know I seldom stir out of my chamber, and to go so far may endanger my health."
My father returned, "I would not have thee make excuses as some of old did and were not found worthy. Thou knowest time is none of ours, and we know not whether we may have the like opportunity again. The snow need not much incommode thee. Thou mayest be quickly in thy coach, and putting up the glasses, mayest be pretty warm. And when thou comest to my house, I know that my wife will do her best for thee."
So she ordered her coach and six to be got ready, for the distance was seven miles, saying, "John is like death. He will not be denied."
My father came along with her and during the time of silence in the meeting, she appeared something restless, but she was very attentive whilst either of the friends were speaking. She was very well pleased after the meeting, and sat at table with the Friends. While the rest sat silent, she would be frequently whispering to my mother until one of them spake a few words before meat. She was ashamed and told my mother that when she was among the great, she was accounted a wise woman. "But now," said she, "that I am among you Quakers, I am a very fool."
Presently after dinner she returned home, and she came several times to the meeting afterwards and I am fully persuaded that she was convinced of the truth. But going up to London, she was there taken ill and died.
Her man, Alexander Cornwall, was convinced of the truth and was afterwards a prisoner with my father in Gloucester castle where the jailer was very cruel to them, sometimes putting them into the common jail among felons, and other times he would hire a tinker, who lay for his fees, to trouble them in the night by playing on his hautboy. One time in particular, my father being concerned to speak to him in the dread and power of God, it struck him to such a degree that he dropped the instrument out of his hand and would never take it into his hand upon that occasion any more. When the jailer asked him why he discontinued it, he answered, "They are the servants of the living God and I will never play more to disturb them, even if you hang me up at the door for it."
"What!" said the jailer, "are you bewitched too? I will turn you out of the castle." Which he did, and the friends who were there as prisoners raised him some money, clothed him, and away he went.
Some time later my father had three conferences with one Nicholson, bishop of Gloucester, which came about in the following manner. An apparitor came to cite my father to appear at the bishop's court, but he told my father that he could not encourage him to come lest they should ensnare him and send him to prison. At the same time they cited a servant of my father's named John Overall. My father went at the time appointed without his servant and when his name was called over, he answered to it. The discourse that occurred was in substance as follows:
Bishop. What is your name?
John Roberts. I have been called by my name and answered to it.
Bishop. I desire to hear it again.
John Roberts. My name is John Roberts.
Bishop. Well, you were born Roberts but you were not born John. Pray who gave you that name?
John Roberts. Thou hast asked me a very hard question, my name being given to me before I was capable of remembering who gave it to me. But I believe it was my parents, they being the only persons who had a right to give me my name. That name they always called me by and to that name I always answered, and I believe none need call it in question now.
Bishop. No, no, but how many children have you!
John Roberts. It hath pleased God to give me six children, three of whom he pleased to take from me. The other three are still living.
Bishop. And how many of them have been bishoped?
John Roberts. None that I know of.
Bishop. What reason can you give for that?
John Roberts. A very good one, I think. Most of my children were born in Oliver's days when bishops were out of fashion. (At this the court fell a laughing.)
Bishop. But how many of them have been baptized?
John Roberts. What dost thou mean by that?
Bishop. What, do not you own baptism?
John Roberts. Yes, but perhaps we may differ in that point.
Bishop. What baptism do you own? That of the Spirit, I suppose.
John Roberts. Yes. What other baptism should I own?
Bishop. Do you own but one baptism?
John Roberts. If one be enough, what needs any more! The apostle said, "One Lord, one faith, one baptism."
Bishop. What say you of the baptism of water?
John Roberts. I say there was a man sent from God, whose name was John, who had a real commission for it. And he was the only man that I read of who was empowered for that work.
Bishop. But what if I make it appear to you that some of Christ's disciples themselves baptized with water after Christ's ascension?
John Roberts. I suppose that is no very difficult task, but what is that to me?
Bishop. Is it nothing to you what Christ's disciples themselves did?
John Roberts. Not in everything. For Paul, that eminent apostle, who, I suppose thou wilt grant, had as extensive a commission as any of the rest of the apostles; nay, he says himself that he was not a whit behind the chiefest of them, and yet he honestly confesses he had no commission to baptize with water. And further he says, "I thank God I baptized none but" such and such, for, says he, "I was not sent to baptize,(i.e., with water,) but to preach the gospel." And if he was not sent, I would soberly ask, "Who required it at his hands?" Perhaps he might have as little thanks for his labor as thou mayest have for thine. And I would willingly know who sent thee to baptize?
Bishop. This is not our present business. You are here returned for not coming to church. What say you to that?
John Roberts. I desire to see mine accusers.
Bishop. It is the minister and the church wardens. Do you deny it?
John Roberts. Yes, I do. For it is always my principle and practice to go to church.
Bishop. And do you go to church?
John Roberts. Yes, and sometimes the church comes to me.
Bishop. The church comes to you? I do not understand you, friend.
John Roberts. It may be so. It is often for want of a good understanding that the innocent are made to suffer.
Apparitor. My lord, he keeps meetings at his house, and he calls that a church.
John Roberts. No, I no more believe my house to be a church than I believe what you call so to be one. I call the people of God the church of God, wheresoever they are met to worship him in spirit and in truth. And when I say the church comes to me, I mean the assembly of such worshipers who frequently meet at my house. I do not call that a church which you do, which is made of wood and stone, that is but the workmanship of men's hands, whereas the true church consists of living stones and is built up by Christ a spiritual house to God.
Bishop. We call it a church figuratively, meaning the place where the church meets.
John Roberts. I fear you call it a church hypocritically and deceitfully, with design to awe the people into a veneration for the place, which is not due to it, as though your consecrations had made that house holier than others.
Bishop. What do you call that which we call a church?
John Roberts. It may properly enough be called a mass house, it being formerly built for that purpose.
Apparitor. Mr. Haywood, it is expected you should show more respect than you do in this place in keeping on your hat.
John Roberts. Who expects it?
Apparitor. My lord, the bishop.
John Roberts. I expect better things from him.
Bishop. No, no, keep on your hat. I do not expect it from you. Well, friend, this is not a convenient time for you and I to dispute. But I may take you to my chamber and convince you of your errors.
John Roberts. I should take it kindly of thee, or any man else, to convince me of any errors that I hold, and I would hold them no longer.
Bishop. Call some others.
Then my father's man was called, who not appearing, the apparitor said, "Mr. Haywood, is John Overall here?"
John Roberts. I believe not.
Bishop. What is the reason he is not here?
John Roberts. I think there are very good reasons for his absence.
Bishop. What are they? May not I know?
John Roberts. In the first place, he is an old man and not of ability to undertake such a journey, except it was upon a very good account. In the second place, he is my servant and I cannot spare him out of my business in my absence.
Bishop. Why does he not go to church then?
John Roberts. He does go to church with me. (At this the court fell a laughing.)
Bishop. Call somebody else.
Then a Baptist preacher was called who, seeing the bishop's civility to my father in suffering him to keep on his hat, thought to take the same liberty. The bishop put on a stern countenance, and said, "Do not you know this is the king's court and that I sit here to represent his majesty's person? And do you come here in an uncivil and irreverent manner, in contempt of his majesty and his court with your hat on? I confess there are some men in the world who make a conscience of putting off their hats, to whom we ought to have some regard. But for you, who can put it off to every mechanic you meet, to come here in contempt of authority with it on, I will assure you, friend, you shall speed never the better for it."
I heard my father say that these words came so honestly from the bishop that it did him good to hear him. The Baptist then taking off his hat, said, "An't please you, my lord, I have not been well in my head."
Bishop. Why, you have got a cap on; nay you have two caps on. (He had a black one over a white one.) What is your reason for denying your children that holy ordinance of baptism?
Baptist. An't please you, my lord, I am not well satisfied about it.
Bishop. What is the ground of your dissatisfaction? Did you ever see a book I published, entitled, The order of Baptism?
Baptist. No, my lord.
Bishop. I thought so.
Then telling how and where he might get it, he gave him a space of time to peruse it and told him if that would not satisfy him, to come to him, and he would give him full satisfaction.
Some time later the bishop sent his bailiff to take my father, but he was then gone to Bristol with George Fox. The officers came several times and searched the house for him, pretending they only wanted him for a small trespass which would soon be made up if they could see him. My mother answered that she did not believe any neighbor he had would trouble him upon such an account. For if by chance any of his cattle trespassed upon any, he would readily make them satisfaction without further trouble which they very well knew. However, she always treated them civilly and frequently set meat and drink before them.
My father staying away longer than was expected, they imagined that he absconded for fear of them and therefore offered my mother, if she would give them twenty shillings, to let him come home for a month. But she told them she knew of no wrong he had done to any man and therefore would give them no money, for that would imply a consciousness of guilt. "But," said she, "if my enemy hunger, I can feed him; and if he thirst, I can give him drink." Upon this they flew into a rage and said that they would have him if he were above ground, for none could pardon him but the king.
My father returning home through Tedbury was there informed that the bailiffs had been about his house almost ever since he went from home. He therefore contrived to come home after daylight. When he came into his own grounds, the moon shining bright, he espied the shadow of a man, and asked "Who is there?" "It is I," says the man.
John Roberts. Who? Sam Stubbs?
Sam Stubbs. Yes, master.
John Roberts. Hast thou any thing against me? (He was a bailiff).
Sam Stubbs. No, master. I might, but I would not meddle. I have wronged you enough already, God forgive me. But those who now lie in wait for you are the Paytons, my lord bishop's bailiffs. I would not have you fall into their hands, for they are merciless rogues. I would have you, master, take my counsel, "Ever while you live, please a knave, for an honest man will not hurt you."
My father came home and desired us not to let the bailiffs in upon him that night so that he might have an opportunity of taking counsel on his pillow. In the morning he told my mother what he had seen that night in a vision. "I thought," he said, "that I was walking a fine pleasant green way, but it was narrow and had a wall on each side of it. In my way lay something like a bear, but more dreadful. The sight of him put me to a stand. A man, seeing me surprised, came to me with a smiling countenance, and said, "Why art thou afraid, friend! He is chained and cannot hurt thee." I thought I made answer, "The way is so narrow that I cannot pass by but he may reach me." "Do not be afraid," says the man, "he cannot hurt thee." I saw he spoke in great good will and thought his face shone like the face of an angel. Upon this I took courage and stepping forward I laid my hand upon his head." The construction he made of this to my mother was that truth is a narrow way, and this bishop lies in my way. I must go to him, whatever I suffer.
So he arose and set forward and called upon Amariah Drewett, a Friend of Cirencester, to accompany him. When they came to the bishop's house at Cleve, near Gloucester, they found a butcher's wife, of Cirencester, who was come to intercede for her husband who was put into the bishop's court for killing meat on First-days. Two young sparks of the bishop's attendance were asking her if she knew John Haywood. She answered, "Yes, very well." "What is he for a man?" said they. "A very good man," said she, "setting aside his religion. But I have nothing to say to that."
One of them said that he would give five shillings to see him. The other offered eight. Upon this my father stepped up to them, but they said not one word to him. One of them presently informed the bishop he was come. The bishop dismissed his company and had him up stairs. My father found him seated in his chair with his hat under his arm, assuming a majestic air. My father stood silent a while and seeing the bishop did not begin with him, he approached nearer, and thus accosted him: "Old man, my business is with thee."
Bishop. What is your business with me?
John Roberts. I have heard that thou hast sent out thy bailiffs to take me. But I rather chose to come myself to know what wrong I have done to thee. If it appear that I have done thee any, I am ready to make thee satisfaction. But if upon inquiry I appear to be innocent, I desire of thee, for thy own soul's sake, that thou dost not injure me.
Bishop. You are misinformed, friend. I am not your adversary.
John Roberts. Then I desire thee to tell me who is my adversary that I may go and agree with him while I am in the way.
Bishop. The king is your adversary. The king's laws you have broken, and to the king you shall answer, that is more.
John Roberts. Our subjection to laws is either active or passive. So that if a man cannot for conscience sake do the thing the law requires, but passively suffers what the law inflicts, the law, I conceive, is as fully answered as if he had actually obeyed.
Bishop. You are wrong in that too. For suppose a man steal an ox and then be taken and hanged for the fact. What restitution is that to the owner?
John Roberts. None at all. But though it is no restitution to the owner, yet the law is satisfied. Though the owner be a loser, the criminal has suffered the punishment the law inflicts as an equivalent for the crime committed. But thou mayest see the corruptness of such laws which put the life of a man upon a level with the life of a beast.
Bishop. What? Do such men as you find fault with the laws?
John Roberts. Yes. And I will tell thee plainly that it is high time wiser men were chosen to make better laws. For if this thief were taken and sold for a proper term, according to the law of Moses, and the owner had four oxen for his ox and four sheep for his sheep, he would be satisfied and the man's life would be preserved so that he might repent and amend his ways. But I hope thou dost not accuse me of having stolen any man's ox or ass.
Bishop. No, no, God forbid!
John Roberts. Then if thou pleasest to give me leave, I will state a case more parallel to the matter in hand.
Bishop. You may.
John Roberts. There lived in days past Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon, who set up an image and made a decree that all who would not bow to it should be cast the same hour into a burning fiery furnace. There were then three young men who served the same God that I do now and these durst not bow down to it, but passively submitted their bodies to the flames. Was not that a sufficient satisfaction to the unjust decree of the king?
Bishop. Yes, God forbid else. For that was to worship the workmanship of men's hands, which is idolatry.
John Roberts. Is that thy judgment, that to worship the workmanship of men's hands is idolatry!
Bishop. Yes, certainly.
John Roberts. Then give me leave to ask thee by whose hands the common-prayer-book was made. I am sure it was made by somebody's hands, for it could not make itself!
Bishop. Do you compare our common-prayer-book to Nebuchadnezzar's image?
John Roberts. Yes, I do. That was his image, and this is thine. And be it known unto thee, I speak in the dread of the God of heaven, I no more dare bow to thy common-prayer-book than the three children could to Nebuchadnezzar's image.
Bishop. Yours is a strange upstart religion of a very few years standing, and you are grown so confident in it that there is no beating you out of it.
John Roberts. Out of my religion? God forbid! I was a long time seeking acquaintance with the living God amongst the dead forms of worship and inquiring after the right way and worship of God before I could find it. And now I hope neither thou nor any man living shall be able to persuade me out of it. But though thou art an ancient man and a bishop, I find thou art very ignorant of the rise and antiquity of our religion.
Bishop. (Smiling.) Do you Quakers pretend antiquity for your religion!
John Roberts. Yes. And I do not question but, with the help of God, I can make it appear that our religion was many hundred years before thine was thought of.
Bishop. You see I have given you liberty of discourse and have not sought to ensnare you in your words, but if you can make the Quakers' religion appear to be many hundred years older than mine, you will speed the better.
John Roberts. If I do not, I seek no favor at thy hands, and in order to do it, I hope thou wilt give me liberty to ask a few sober questions.
Bishop. You may.
John Roberts. Then first I would ask thee, where was thy religion in Oliver's days? The common-prayer-book was then become, even among the clergy, like an old almanac, very few regarding it in our country. There were two or three priests indeed who stood honestly to their principles and suffered pretty much. But the far greater number turned with the tide and we have reason to believe that if Oliver would have put mass into their mouths, they would have conformed even to that for their bellies.
Bishop. What would you have us do? Would you have Oliver cut our throats?
John Roberts. No, by no means. But what religion was that which you were afraid to venture your throats for! Be it known unto thee, I ventured my throat for my religion in Oliver's days as I do now.
Bishop. And I must tell you, though in Oliver's days I did not dare to own it as I do now, yet I never owned any other religion.
John Roberts. Then I suppose thou madest a conscience of it. And I should abundantly rather choose to fall into such a man's hands than into the hands of one who makes no conscience towards God, but will conform to any thing for his belly. But if thou didst not think thy religion worth venturing thy throat for in Oliver's days, I desire thee to consider that it is not worth cutting other men's throats now for not conforming to it.
Bishop. You say right. I hope we shall have a care how we cut men's throats. (Several others were now come into the room.) But you know the common-prayer-book was before Oliver's days.
John Roberts. Yes, I have a great deal of reason to know that, for I was bred up under a common-prayer priest, and a poor old drunken man he was. Sometimes he was so drunk that he could not say his prayers, and at best he could but say them, though I think he was by far a better man than he that is priest there now.
Bishop. Who is your minister now?
John Roberts. My minister is Christ Jesus, the minister of the everlasting covenant. But the present priest of the parish is George Bull.
Bishop. Do you say that drunken old man was better than Mr. Bull? I tell you, I account Mr. Bull as sound, able, and orthodox a divine as any we have among us.
John Roberts. I am sorry for that, for if he is one of the best of you, I believe the Lord will not suffer you long, for he is a proud, ambitious, ungodly man. He has often sued me at law and brought his servants to swear against me wrongfully. His servants themselves have confessed to my servants that I might have their ears, for their master made them drunk and then told them they were set down in the list as witnesses against me, and they must swear to it. And so they did, and brought treble damages. They likewise owned that they took tithes from my servant, threshed them out, and sold them for their master. They have also several times taken my cattle out of my grounds, driven them to fairs and markets, and sold them without giving me any account.
Bishop. I do assure you that I will inform Mr. Bull of what you say.
John Roberts. Very well. And if thou pleasest to send for me to face him, I shall make much more appear to his face than I will say behind his back.
Bishop. But I remember you said that you could make it appear that your religion was long before mine. And that is what I want to hear you make out.
John Roberts. Our religion, as thou mayest read in the Scripture, (John iv.) was set up by Christ himself between sixteen and seventeen hundred years ago. And he had full power to establish the true religion in his church when he told the woman of Samaria that neither at that mountain nor yet at Jerusalem was the place of true worship. They worshiped they knew not what. For, said he, "God is a Spirit, and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth." This is our religion and hath ever been the religion of all those who have worshiped God acceptably through the several ages since, down to this time, and will be the religion of the true spiritual worshiper of God to the world's end; a religion performed by the assistance of the Spirit of God, because God is a Spirit; a religion established by Christ himself, before the mass-book, service-book, or directory, or any of those inventions and traditions of men which in the night of apostasy were set up.
Bishop. Are all the Quakers of the same opinion?
John Roberts. Yes, they are. If any hold doctrines contrary to that taught by our Savior to the woman of Samaria, they are not of us.
Bishop. Do you own the trinity?
John Roberts. I do not remember such a word in the holy Scriptures.
Bishop. Do you own three persons?
John Roberts. I believe according to the Scripture, that there are three that bear record in heaven, and that those three are One. Thou mayest make as many persons of them as thou canst. But I would soberly ask thee, since the Scriptures say the heaven of heavens cannot contain Him and that He is incomprehensible, by what person or likeness canst thou comprehend the Almighty?
Bishop. Yours is the strangest of all persuasions. For though there are many sects (which he named) and though they and we differ in some circumstances, yet in the fundamentals we agree as one. But I observe that you of all others strike at the very root and basis of our religion.
John Roberts. Art thou sensible of that?
Bishop. Yes, I am.
John Roberts. I am glad of that, for the root is the rottenness, and truth strikes at the very foundation thereof. That little stone which Daniel saw cut out of the mountain without hands will overturn all in God's due time, when you have done all you can to support it. But as to those others that thou mentionest, there is so little difference between you that wise men wonder why you differ at all. Only we read, the beast had many heads and many horns which push against each other. And yet I am fully persuaded that there are in this day many true spiritual worshipers in all persuasions.
Bishop. But you will not give us the same liberty that you give a common mechanic to call our tools by their own names.
John Roberts. I desire thee to explain thyself.
Bishop. Why, you will give a carpenter leave to call his gimblet a gimblet and his gouge a gouge. But you call our church a mass-house.
John Roberts. I wish you were half so honest men as carpenters.
Bishop. Why do you upbraid us?
John Roberts. I would not upbraid you. But I will endeavor to show thee wherein you fall short of carpenters. Suppose I had a son intended to learn the trade of a carpenter. I indent with an honest man of that calling, in consideration of so much money, to teach my son his trade in such a term of years. At the end of that term my son may be as good or perhaps a better workman than his master, and he shall be at liberty from him to follow the business for himself. Now will you be so honest as this carpenter? You are men who pretend to know more of light, life, and salvation and things pertaining to the kingdom of heaven than we do. I would ask in how long a time you would undertake to teach us as much as you know? And what shall we give you so that we may be once free from our masters? But here you keep us always learning, that we may be always paying you. Plainly it is a very cheat. What? Always learning, and never able to come to the knowledge of God? Miserable sinners you found us and miserable sinners you leave us.
Bishop. Are you against confession?
John Roberts. No, for I believe those who confess and forsake their sins shall find mercy at the hand of God. But those who persist in them shall be punished. But if ever you intend to be better, you must throw away your old book and get a new one, or turn over a new leaf. For if you keep on in your old lesson, you must always be doing what you ought not and leaving undone what ye ought to do, and you can never do worse. I believe in my heart that you mock God.
Bishop. How dare you say?
John Roberts. I will state the case, and thou shalt judge. Suppose thou hadst a son and thou shouldest daily let him know what thou wouldest have him to do, and he should day by day, week by week, and year after year, provoke thee to thy face, and say, "Father, I have not done what thou commandest me to do but I have done quite the contrary," and continue to provoke thee to thy face in this manner, once, or oftener every week. Wouldest thou not think him a rebellious child and that his application to thee was mere mockery? And would it not occasion thee to disinherit him?
After some more discourse, my father told him that time was far spent and said, "If nothing will serve thee but my body in prison, here it is in thy power. And if thou commandest me to deliver myself up either to the sheriff or to the jailer of Gloucester castle as thy prisoner, I will go and seek no other judge, advocate, or attorney to plead my cause but the great Judge of heaven and earth, who knows I have nothing but love and good-will in my heart to thee and all mankind."
Bishop. No, you shall go home about your business.
John Roberts. Then I desire thee for the future not to trouble thyself to send any more bailiffs after me. For if thou pleasest at any time to let me know by a line or two that thou wouldest speak with me, though it be to send me to that prison, if I am well and able, I will come.
The bishop then called for something to drink, but my father acknowledged his kindness and excused himself from drinking. And the bishop being called out of the room, one Cuthbert, who took offence at my father's freedom with the bishop, said, "Haywood, you are afraid of nothing. I never met with such a man in my life. I am afraid of my life, lest such fanatics as you should cut my throat as I sleep."
John Roberts. I do not wonder that thou art afraid.
Cuthbert. Why should I be afraid any more than you!
John Roberts. Because I am under the protection of Him who numbereth the very hairs of my head and without whose providence a sparrow shall not fall to the ground. But thou hast Cain's mark of envy on thy forehead, and like him thou art afraid that whoever meets thee will kill thee.
Cuthbert. (In a great rage.) If all the Quakers in England are not hanged in a month's time, I will be hanged for them.
John Roberts. (Smiling.) Prithee, friend, remember and be as good as thy word.
My father and his friend, Amariah Drewett, then took their leave and returned home with the answer of peace in their bosoms.
Sometime after this, the bishop and the chancellor in their coaches, accompanied by Thomas Masters, Esq., in his coach and about twenty clergymen on horseback, made my father's house in their way to a visitation which was to be at Tedbury the next day. They stopped at the gate and George Evans, the bishop's kinsman, rode into the yard to call my father who coming to the bishop's coach side, he put out his hand, which my father respectfully took, saying, "I could not well go out of the county without seeing you."
John Roberts. That is very kind. Wilt thou please to alight and come in with those who are along with thee?
Bishop. I thank you, John. We are going to Tedbury, and time will not admit of it now. But I will drink with you, if you please.
My father went in and ordered some drink to be brought, and then returned to the coach side.
George Evans. John, is your house free to entertain such men as we are?
John Roberts. Yes, George. I entertain honest men, and sometimes others.
George Evans. (To the bishop.) My lord, John's friends are the honest men and we are the others.
John Roberts. That is not fair, George, for thee to put thy construction on my words. Thou shouldst have given me leave to do that.
Squire Masters came out of his coach and stood by the bishop's coach side and the chancellor, and in a diverting humor said to my father, "My lord and these gentlemen have been to see your burying-ground, and we think you keep it very decent." (This piece of ground my father had given to the Friends for that purpose. It lay at the lower end of his orchard.) My father answered, "Yes, though we are against pride, we think it commendable to be decent."
Chancellor. But there is one thing among you which I did not expect to see. I think it looks a little superstitious. I mean those grave stones which are placed at the head and feet of your graves.
John Roberts. That I confess is what I cannot much plead for. But it was permitted to gratify some who had their relations there interred. We, notwithstanding, propose to have them taken up ere long and converted to some better use. But I desire thee to take notice that we had it from among you, and I have observed in many things wherein we have taken you for our pattern, you have led us wrong. And therefore we are now resolved, with the help of God, not to follow you one step further.
Bishop. (At this the bishop smiled.) John, I think your beer is long a coming.
John Roberts. I suppose my wife is willing thou shouldst have the best and therefore stays to broach a fresh vessel.
Bishop. Nay, if it be for the best, we will stay.
Presently my mother brought the drink, and when the bishop had drunk, he said, "I commend you, John. You keep a cup of good beer in your house. I have not drunk any that pleased me better since I came from home." The chancellor drank next and the cup coming round again to my father's hand, Squire Masters said to him, "Now, old school-fellow, I hope you will drink to me."
John Roberts. Thou knowest it is not my practice to drink to any man. If it were, I would as soon drink to thee as another, as being my old acquaintance and school-fellow. But if thou art pleased to drink, thou art very welcome.
The Squire then taking the cup into his hand, said, "Now, John, before my lord and all these gentlemen, tell me what ceremony or compliment do you Quakers use when you drink to one another."
John Roberts. None at all. For me to drink to another and drink the liquor is at best but a compliment, and that borders much on a lie.
Squire Masters. What do you do then?
John Roberts. Why, if I have a mind to drink, I take the cup and drink. And if my friend pleases, he does the same. If not, he may let it alone.
Squire Masters. Honest John, give me thy hand. Here is to thee with all my heart. And according to thy own compliment, if thou wilt drink, thou mayest, if not, thou mayest let it alone.
My father then offering the cup to the Priest Bull, he refused it, saying it is full of hops and heresy. To which my father replied, "As for hops, I cannot say much, not being at the brewing of it. But as for heresy, I do assure thee, neighbor Bull, there is none in my beer. And if thou pleasest to drink, thou art welcome. But if not, I desire thee to take notice, as good as thou wilt, and those