« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »
AFTER a labour of more than five and twenty years, this history at length appears in public view; to the compiling of which I was induced from the consideration that the rise and increase of that religious society, which in this work I have given a circumstantial account of, is indeed so rare and wonderful a thing, that I think few will be met with in modern histories, which in the like respect may be compared therewith; because the Quakers, so called, are become a great people, under such heavy oppression as is herein after mentioned: and that not by any human power, or making resistance, but merely by an harmless deportment, and the exercising of patience; for bearing arms and resisting the wicked by fighting, they always have counted unlawful, and contrary to the doctrine of our Saviour. Thus they who had no king, prince, nor potentate to protect them; and who in the beginning had not among themselves any man of renown or literature, but relying on their integrity, and trusting to God alone; have at length triumphed over the malice of their opposers, by suffering, (which rose to that degree that it was at the expense of the lives of many of them,) under violent oppression from high and low, and the opposition of learned and unlearned.
All this after much search, being found out by assiduous diligence, appeared so wonderful to me, that I resolved to give a relation thereof, notwithstanding the great labour I soon perceived this work required. To this may be added, that when I considered that several authors, both Germans and others, had published books and accounts of this
people stuffed with gross untruths, I was the more spurred on thereby to set down in due order, for my countrymen's sake, what I knew of the matter; for it seems indeed to be of small advantage that when any thing is well known to us, we keep that knowledge only to ourselves,* without imparting it to others.
Now how difficult soever I found it, yet having made a beginning, I resolved to go on; and so I did, though often stopped by several accidents, and also other work: for during this labour I have not only translated several bulky books into Dutch, besides Kennet's Antiquities of Rome, but also composed several treatises of moment, and among these my great dictionary, English and Low Dutch. And notwithstanding all these impediments, I continually resumed this work by intervals so often, that I have written it almost thrice to make it complete: for doubting of some things, and finding others defective, it made me write to England for better information; which having gotten at length, after much pains and long writing, I was several times obliged to lay aside part of my former description and make a new one; which happened so often that had I not been supported by an unwearied application, the difficulty of the labour, which hath been much greater in Holland, than if I had composed the work in England, would have made me give it over. But I went on, and so finished this history in that form as it now appears.
And I am not without thoughts, that I was prepared to be instrumental for such a work as this: for several remarkable things I have made use of, I had noted down before ever I thought of composing such a history; and even in my young years, when I was in England, I copied out from manuscripts several pieces and letters, which are inserted in this history: it may be hardly to be found elsewhere.
At the first sight perhaps some will be ready to think that I might have superseded this labour, since the learned world hath long ago seen a book written by Gerard Croese, with the title of Historia Quakeriana. But be it known to the reader, that though the author got the chief contents
Scire tuum nihil est, nisi te scire hoc sciat alter-Pers. Sat. 1.
thereof from me, yet that relation which he gives of the rise and progress of the Quakers, is very imperfect and defective; and that he presumed to relate things of which he had no true knowledge. I gave him indeed many things in writing, but not all I had collected; besides having since that time written to my acquaintance in England, I got narratives of many remarkable occurrences given forth in print there, and many authentic pieces in manuscript. Now though this collection was, as Ovid called the chaos, Rudis indigestaque moles,' a rude undigested heap;' yet from thence, and from my own collection of matters known to me, I have compiled the greatest part of this history: but as to the life and transactions of G. Fox, who is largely treated of in this work, I took them chiefly from his journal; and the greatest part of other occurrences, or the lives and transactions of others, I have taken from the works of deceased authors; and out of abundance of small books published in print not long after the things happened and not contradicted by whatever I could learn.
Thus I have endeavoured to assert nothing but what I had good authority for; which in regard of some circum- ' stances, would have been yet far more difficult after the expiration of some years: for now time gave opportunity to be informed of many things, which some ancient people had yet remembrance of, and which after their decease perhaps would have been buried in oblivion.
I cannot well omit here publicly to acknowledge the signal kindness and diligence of my well-beloved and much esteemed friend Theodore Eccleston, of London, who hath furnished me with abundance of materials, not only very useful, but also absolutely necessary for the compiling of this work from him I had intelligence on that account, and have exchanged a multitude of letters. And thus by a 'ong-continued correspondence I came to be acquainted with many things and circumstances, which after some year might have been more difficult to obtain.
Add to this, that I have described several things well known to me, which few besides myself within these thirty or forty years had better knowledge of. I have also mentioned several remarkable cases, which I noted down from VOL. I.
the mouths of credible persons who have been dead many years, and thought not that at any time I should have published them in print. In the meanwhile I took account of what seemed to me worthy to be left upon record, and collected a great quantity of books, wherein many occurrences mentioned in this history were related. Of such kind of relations and accounts I have made use of, without taking from thence all that was remarkable; for it hath not been for want of matter that this history hath not run out further, since I could have made it thrice as big, if I had been minded so to do. But as I was unwilling to extend my work any further than my strength and health in all probability should permit, so I would not glut my reader with many things of one and the same nature; but have endeavoured by variety of matter, to quicken his appetite; and therefore have intermixed the serious part sometimes with a facetious accident.
Yet I have not thought myself bound to take notice of every odd case that may have happened among the Quakers, so called: for there have conversed among them such who acted some particular things that were not approved of by those of that society. And if any one, swayed by human passion, commits any excess which is disapproved of by his fellow members of the church, such an act may not be duly imputed to the people he makes profession with. Among such particulars may be reckoned the case of one Hester Biddle, which Croese makes mention of about the end of his history. For though it was told him from the relation she gave of it at Amsterdam, not with any intention that he should publish it, yet this was a particular case which she herself must be responsible for; since experience bath taught that imagination sometimes works so powerfully on the mind, that one thinks himself obliged to do a thing which were better left undone.
Yet for all that, it is true, that men fearing God, may mistake, and through ignorance do something, which others not without reason might judge not commendable. Also it may happen that some again, from a godly fear, have omitted what others, no less pious, would not have scrupled.