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Now justice Flemming being one of the fiercest and most violent justices in persecuting friends, and sending his honest neighbours to prison for religion's sake; and there being many friends at this time in Lancaster jail committed thither by him, and some having died in prison, we that were there then prisoners had it upon us to write to him as followeth ;
50 Justice Flemming ! 5 Mercy and compassion, and love and kindness adorns and graces men and magistrates. Oh! dost thou not hear the cry of the widows, and the cry of the fatherless, who were made so through persecution! Were they not driven like sheep from constable to constable, as though they had been the greatest transgressors or malefactors in the land? Which grieved and tendered the hearts of many sober people to see how their innocent neighbours and countrymen (who were of a peaceable carriage, and honest in their lives and conversations amongst men) were used and served! One more is dead whom thou sentest to prison, having left five children, both fatherless and motherless. Now how canst thou do otherwise than take care of these fatherless infants, and also of the other's wife and family? Is it not thy place? Consider Job (c. 29th) how he was a father to the poor, he delivered the poor that cried, and the fatherless that had none to help; how he brake the jaws of the wicked and plucked the spoil out of his teeth. But oh! measure thy life and his, and take heed of the day of God's eternal judgment which will come, and the sentence and decree from Christ, when every man must give an account, and receive a reward according to his deeds; and then it will be said, Oh, where are the months that are past! Again, justice Flemming, consider, when John Stubbs was brought before thee, having a wife and four small children, and little to live on, but what they honestly got by their own diligence, as soon as he appeared, thou criedst out, Put the oath to that man. And when he confessed he was but a poor man, yet then thou hadst no regard; but cast away pity, not hearing what he would say: and now he is kept up in prison, because he could not swear and break the command of Christ and the apostle: it is to be hoped thou wilt take care for his family, that his children do not starve, and see that they do not want bread. Can this be allegiance to the king, to do that which Christ and his apostle say is evil, and brings into condemnation ? And would not you haye cast Christ and the apostle into prison, who com
mand not to swear, if they had been in your days ? Consider also thy poor neighbour William Wilson, who was known to all the parish and neighbours to be an industrious man, and careful to maintain his wife and children, but had little, but what he got with his hands in diligence and travels to supply himself: how should this wife maintain her children when thou hast cast her husband into prison, and thereby made him uncapable of working for them? Therefore it may be expected, thou wilt have a care of his wife and children, and see they do not want ; for how should they live, having no other way to be sustained, but by the little that he got? Surely, the noise of this is in the very markets, and the death of ihy two neighbours, and the cry of the widows, and the cry of the fatherless is heard ; and all those fatherless and those widows are made so for righteousness sake. For might not John Stubbs and William Wilson have had their liberty still if they would have sworn, though they had been such as go after mountebanks and stage-plays, or run a hunting? O consider, for the Lord's mind is otherwise, for he is tender; and the king hath declared his mind to be, that there should be no cruelty inflicted upon his peaceable subjects. Besides, several poor honest people were fined, who had need to have something given them; and it had been more honourable to have given them something than to fine them and send them to prison; some of whom live upon the charity of other people. Now what honour or grace can it be to thee, to cast thy poor neighbours into prison who be peaceable, seeing thou knowest these people cannot do thai which thou requirest of them, if it were to save their lives, or all that they have? because in tenderness they cannot take any oath, thou makest that a snare to them. What, thinkest thou, do the people say concerning this? We know (say they) the Quakers' principle that keep to yea and nay, but we see others swear and forswear; for many of you have sworn first one way and then another. So we leave it to the Spirit of God in thy conscience, justice Flemming, who was so eager for the taking of George Fox, and so offended with them that had not taken him, and now hast fallen upon thy poor neighbours. But oh! where is thy pity for their poor fatherless children and motherless infants? O take heed of Herod's hard-heartedness and casting away all pity! Esau did so, not Jacob. Here is also Thomas Walters of Bolton cast into prison, and the oath imposed on him through thee, and for denying to swear at all, in obedience to Christ's command, he is continued in prison ; who hath five small
children and his wife near down-lying. Surely thou should take care for them also, and see that his wife and small children do not want; who are as fatherless, and she as a widow through thee. Dost thou not hear in thy ears the cry of the fatherless, and the cry of the widows, and the blood of the innocent speak, who through thee have been persecuted to prison and now dead?. Oh! heavy sentence at the day of judgment! How wilt thou answer when thou and ihy works come to be judged, when thou shalt be brought before the judgment-seat and bar of the Almighty, who in thy prosperity hast made widows and fatherless for righteousness sake, and for tenderness of conscience towards God? The Lord knows and sees it! O man ! consider in thy life-time, how thou hast stained thyself with the blood of the innocent! When thou hadst power, and mightest have done good amongst thy peaceable neighbours, thou wouldest not, but usedest thy power not to a good intent, but contrary to the Lord's mind and to the king's. The king's favour and his mercy and clemency to sober people and to tender consciences, hath been manifested by declarations and proclamations, which thou hast abused and slighted by persecuting his peaceable subjects. For at London and in other parts the Quakers' meetings are peaceable; and if thou look but as far as Yorkshire, where the plot hath been, friends' innocency hath cleared itself in the hearts of sober justices, and for you here to fall upon your peaceable neighbours and people, and to be rigorous and violent against them, that are tender, godly and righteous, it is no honour to you. How many drunk . ards, and swearers, and fighters, and such as are subject to vice, have you caused to be brought before you to your courts? It were more honourable for you to look after such; for the law was not made for the righteous, but for sinners and transgressors.
Therefore consider, and be humbled for these things, for the Lord may do to thee, as thou hast done to others; and thou dost not know how soon there may be a cry in thy own family, as the cry is amongst thy neighbours, of the fatherless and widows that are made so through thee. But the Quakers can and do say, the Lord forgive thee, and lay not these things to thy charge, if it be his will.'
Besides this, which went in the name of many, I sent him also a line subscribed by myself only, and directed
To Daniel Flemming. (Friend,
Thou hast imprisoned the servants of the Lord, without the breach of any law; therefore take heed what thou dost, (for in the light of the Lord God thou art seen) lest the hand of the Lord be turned against thee!'
It was not long after this ere Flemming’s wife died, and left him thirteen or fourteen motherless children.
When I was prisoner at Lancaster, there was prisoner also one major Wiggan, a baptist preacher. He boasted much beforehand what he would say at the assize, if the oath should be put to him, and that he would refuse to swear: but when the assize caine and the oath was tendered him, he desired time to consider of it; and that being granted him till the next assize, he got leave to go to London before the assize came again, and came no more back, but staid at London till the plague brake forth, and there both he and his wife were cut off. He was a very wicked man, and the judgments of God came upon him, for he had published a very wicked book against friends, full of lies and blasphemies, the occasion of which was this: whilst he was in Lancaster castle he challenged friends to have a dispute with them, whereupon I got leave of the jailer to go up to them, and entering into discourse with him, he affirmed, that some men never had the Spirit of God, and that the true light which enlighteneth every one that cometh into the world is natural. For proof of his assertion he instanced Balaam, affirming, that Balaam had not the Spirit of God: I affirmed and proved, that Balaam had the Spirit of God, and that wicked men have the Spirit of God, else how could they quench it, and vex it, and grieve it, and resist the Holy Ghost like the stiff-necked Jews? To his second affirmation I answered, that the true light which enlighteneth every man that cometh into the world, was the life in the word, and that was divine and eternal, and not natural; and he might as well say that the word was natural, as that the life in the word was natural; and wicked men were enlightened by this light, else how could they hate it? Now it is expressly said, that they did hate it : and the reason given why they did hate it, was, because their deeds were evil, and they would not come to it, because it reproved them, and that must needs be in them that reproved them. Besides, that light could not be the scriptures of the New
Testament, for it was testified of before any part of the New Testament was written; so it must be the divine light which is the life in Christ the word, before scriptures were ; and the grace of God, which brought salvation, had appeared unto all men, and taught the saints; but they that turned it into wantonness, and walked despitefully against the Spirit of Grace were the wicked. Again, the Spirit of Truth, the Holy Ghost, the Comforter, which leads the disciples of Christ into all truth, the same should reprove the world of sin, of righteousness, and of judgment, and of their unbelief; so the wicked world had it to reprove them, and the true disciples and learners of Christ, that believed in the light as Christ commands, they had it to lead them. But the world that did not believe in the light, though they were lighted, but hated the light which they should have believed in, and loved the darkness rather than it, this world had a righteousness and a judgment, which the Holy Ghost reproved them for as well as for their unbelief. So having proved that the good and the bad were enlightened, and that the grace of God had appeared unto them all, and that all had the Spirit of God, else they could not vex and grieve it, I told major Wiggan the least babe there might see him; and presently stood up one Richard Cubham, and proved him an antichrist and a deceiver by scripture. Then the jailer had me away, to my prison again. And afterwards Wiggan wrote a book of this dispute, and put in abundance of abominable lies; but his book was soon answered in print, and he himself not long after was cut off as afore is said.
This Wiggan was poor, and while he was a prisoner at Lancaster he sent into the country, and got money gathered for relief of the poor people of God in prison, and many people gave freely, thinking it had been for us, when as indeed it was for himself. But when we heard of it, we Jaid it upon him, and writ also into the country, that friends might let the people know the truth of the matter, that it was not our manner to have collections made for us; and that those collections were only for Wiggan and another, a drunken preacher of his society, who would be so drunk that once lie lost his breeches. · After this it came upon me to write a paper to the judges and other magistrates, concerning their giving evil words and nicknames to such as were brought before them; and that which I writ' was after this manner, and thus directed :