"The Seed Reigns over Death"
[The year 1679 was spent almost entirely in
retirement at Swarthmore, but in 1680 the activity and travels
begin again. This last decade of Fox's life finds him much of the
time in or about London, for there are new storms to be met, and he
could not lie at ease in the "North." The Wilkinson-Story movement
in opposition to a settled system of government and discipline made
his presence in the "South" necessary. But even more than for this
was he concerned over the fresh spasm of persecution which during
the closing years of Charles' reign filled the prisons and jails
with Quakers. Whenever or wherever the "Conventicle Act" was
enforced Friends were sure to have the large end of the suffering
After this I was moved of the Lord to visit Friends
in some parts of Surrey and Sussex. I went to Kingston by water,
and tarried certain days; for while I was there, the Lord laid it
upon me to write both to the great Turk, and the Dey of Algiers,
severally, to warn them, and the people under them, to turn from
their wickedness, fear the Lord, and do justly; lest the judgments
of God should come upon them, and destroy them without remedy. To
the Algerines I wrote more particularly concerning the cruelty they
exercised towards Friends and others, whom they held captives in
At Hertford I met with John Story, and some others
of his party; but the testimony of Truth went over them, and kept
them down, so that the meeting was quiet.
It was on a First-day; and the next day being the
men's and women's meeting for business, I visited them also, and
the rather because some in that place had let in a disesteem of
them. Wherefore I was moved to open the service of those meetings,
and the usefulness and benefit thereof to the Church of Christ, as
the Lord opened the thing in me; and it was of good service to
I had a meeting also with some of those that were
gone into strife and contention, to show them wherein they were
wrong; and having cleared myself of them, I left them to the
I abode at London most part of this winter, having much
service for the Lord there, both in and out of meetings: for as it
was a time of great suffering among Friends, I was drawn in spirit
to visit Friends' meetings more frequently; to encourage and
strengthen them both by exhortation and example. The Parliament
also was sitting, and Friends were diligent in waiting upon them,
to lay their grievances before them.
We received fresh accounts almost every day of the
sad sufferings Friends underwent in many parts of the nation. In
seeking relief for my suffering brethren I spent much time;
together with other Friends, who were freely given up to that
service, attending at the Parliament-House for many days together,
and watching all opportunities to speak with such members of either
House as would hear our just complaints.
Indeed, some of these were very courteous to us,
and appeared willing to help us if they could; but the Parliament
being then earnest in examining the Popish plot, and contriving
ways to discover such as were Popishly affected, our adversaries
took advantage against us (because they knew we could not swear nor
fight) to expose us to those penalties that were made against
Papists; though they knew in their consciences that we were no
Papists, and had had experience of us, that we were no
Sufferings continuing severe upon Friends at
London, I found my
service lay mostly there; wherefore I went but little out of town,
and not far; being frequent at the most public meetings, to
encourage Friends, both by word and example, to stand fast in the
testimony to which God had called them.
At other times I went about from house to house,
visiting Friends that had their goods taken away for their
testimony to Truth; because the wicked informers were grown very
audacious, by reason that they had too much countenance and
encouragement from some justices, who trusting wholly to their
information, proceeded against Friends without hearing them;
whereby many were made to suffer, not only contrary to right, but
even contrary to law also.<
Now I had some inclination to go into the country
to a meeting, but hearing that there would be a bustle at our
meetings, and feeling a great disquietness in people's spirits in
the city about choosing sheriffs, it was upon me to stay in the
city, and go to the meeting in Gracechurch street upon the first
day of the week. William Penn went with me, and spoke; and while he
was declaring the Truth to the people, a constable came in with his
great staff, and bade him give over, and come down; but he
continued, declaring Truth in the power of God.
After a while the constable drew back, and when
William Penn had done, I stood up, and declared to the people the
everlasting gospel, which was preached in the apostles' days, and
to Abraham; and which the Church in the apostles' days received,
and came to be heirs of.
As I was thus speaking, two constables came in with
their great staves, and bade me give over speaking, and come down;
but, feeling the power of the Lord with me, I spoke on therein,
both to the constables and to the people. To the constables I
declared that we were a peaceable people, who meet to wait upon
God, and worship Him in spirit and in truth; and therefore they
needed not to come with their staves amongst us, who were met in a
peaceable manner, desiring and seeking the good and salvation of
Then turning my speech to the people again, I
declared what further was upon me to them; and while I was
speaking, the constables drew out towards the door; and the
soldiers stood with their muskets in the yard.
When I had done speaking, I kneeled down and
prayed, desiring the Lord to open the eyes and hearts of all
people, both high and low, that their minds might be turned to God
by His Holy Spirit; that He might be glorified in all and over all.
After prayer the meeting rose, and Friends passed away; the
constables being come in again, but without the soldiers; and
indeed, both they and the soldiers carried themselves civilly.
William Penn and I went into a room hard by, as we
used to do, and many Friends went with us, and lest the constables
should think we would shun them, a Friend went down and told them
that if they would have anything with us, they might come where we
were, if they pleased.
On First-day it was upon me to go to
Devonshire-House meeting in the afternoon; and because I had heard
Friends were kept out there that morning (as they were that day at
most meetings about the city), I went sooner, and got into the yard
before the soldiers came to guard the passages. But the constables
were there before me, and stood in the doorway with their
I asked them to let me go in. They said they could
not, durst not; for they were commanded the contrary, and were
sorry for it.
I told them I would not press upon them; so I stood
by, and they were very civil.
I stood till I was weary, and then one gave me a
stool to sit down on; and after a while the power of the Lord began
to spring up among Friends, and one began to speak.
The constables soon forbade him, and said he should
not speak; and he not stopping, they began to be wroth. But I
gently laid my hand upon one of the constables, and wished him to
let the Friend alone. The constable did so, and was quiet; and the
man did not speak long. After he had done, I was moved to stand up
I then sat down; and after a while I was moved to
pray. The power of the Lord was over all; and the people, the
constables and soldiers put off their hats.
When the meeting was done, and Friends began to
pass away, the constable put off his hat, and desired the Lord to
bless us; for the power of the Lord was over him and the people,
and kept them under.
I tarried in and near London, visiting Friends'
meetings, and labouring in the service of the gospel, till the
yearly meeting came on, which began on the 28th of the Third month.
It was a time of great sufferings; and much concerned I was lest
Friends that came up out of the country on the Church's service,
should be taken and imprisoned at London. But the Lord was with us;
His power preserved us, and gave us a sweet and blessed opportunity
to wait upon Him, to be refreshed together in Him, and to perform
His services for His truth and people for which we met.
As it was a time of great persecution, and we
understood that in most counties Friends were under great
sufferings, either by imprisonments or spoiling of goods, or both,
a concern was weightily upon me lest any Friends that were
sufferers, especially such as were traders and dealers in the
world, should hazard the losing of other men's goods or estates
through their sufferings.
On the First-day following I went to the meeting at
Gracechurch street. When I came there, I found three constables in
the meeting-house, who kept Friends out; so we met in the
After I had been some time there, I stood up and
spoke to the people, and continued speaking some time. Then one of
the constables came, and took hold of my hand, and said, "You must
come down." I desired him to be patient, and went on speaking to
the people; but after a little time he pulled me down, and took me
into the meeting-house.
I asked them if they were not weary of this work.
One of them said, "Indeed we are." They let me go into the widow
Foster's house, which joined the meeting-house, where I stayed,
When the meeting was ended, for one prayed after I
was taken away, the constables asked some Friends which of them
would pass their words that I should appear, if they should be
questioned about me. But the Friends told them they need not
require that, for I was a man well known in the city to be one that
would neither fly nor shrink. So they went away, and I heard no
further of it.
I continued yet at London, labouring in the work
and service of the Lord, both in and out of meetings; sometimes
visiting Friends in prison for the testimony of Jesus, encouraging
them in their sufferings and exhorting them to stand faithful and
steadfast in the testimony, which the Lord had committed to them to
bear. Sometimes also I visited those that were sick and weak in
body, or troubled in mind, helping to bear up their spirits from
sinking under their infirmities. Sometimes our meetings were quiet
and peaceable; sometimes they were disturbed and broken up by the
As I was speaking in the power of the Lord, and
the people were greatly affected therewith, suddenly the
constables, with the rude people, came in like a sea.
One of the constables said to me, "Come down"; and
he laid hands on me.
I asked him, "Art thou a Christian? We are
He had hold of my hand, and was very fierce to
pluck me down; but I stood still, and spoke a few words to the
people; desiring of the Lord that the blessings of God might rest
upon them all.
The constable still called upon me to come down,
and at length plucked me down, and bade another man with a staff
take me and carry me to prison. That man led me to the house of
another officer, who was more civil; and after a while they brought
in four Friends more, whom they had taken.
I was very weary, and in a great perspiration; and
several Friends, hearing where I was, came to me in the constable's
house; but I bade them all go their ways, lest the constables and
informers should stop them.
After a while the constables led us almost a mile
to a justice, who was a fierce, passionate man. After he had asked
me my name, and his clerk had taken it in writing, upon the
constable's informing him that I had preached in the meeting, he
said in an angry manner, "Do not you know that it is contrary to
the King's laws to preach in such conventicles, contrary to the
Liturgy of the Church of England?"
There was present one -- -- Shad (a wicked
informer, who was said to have broken jail at Coventry, and to have
been burned in the hand at London), who, hearing the justice speak
so to me, stepped up to him and told him that he had convicted them
on the Act of the 22d of King Charles the Second.
"What! you convict them?" said the justice.
"Yes," said Shad, "I have convicted them, and you
must convict them too upon that Act."
With that the justice was angry with him, and said,
"You teach me! what are you? I'll convict them of a riot."
The informer hearing that and seeing the justice
angry, went away in a fret; so he was disappointed of his
Now had I drawings in Spirit to go into Holland, to
visit the Seed of God there. And as soon as the yearly
meeting was over I prepared for my journey. There went with me from
London Alexander Parker, George Watts, and Nathaniel Brassey, who
also had drawings into that country.
We took coach the 31st of the Third month, 1684,
and got to Colchester that night. Next day being First-day, we went
to the meeting there; and though there was no notice given of my
coming, yet our being there was presently spread over the town, and
in several places in the country at seven and ten miles distance;
so that abundance of Friends came in double-horsed, which made the
meeting very large.
I had a concern and travail in my mind, lest this
great gathering should stir up the town, and be more than the
magistrates could well bear. But it was very quiet and peaceable,
and a glorious meeting we had, to the settling and establishing of
Friends both in town and country; for the Lord's power was over
all; blessed be His name for ever!
Truly the Lord's power and presence was beyond
words; for I was but weak to go into a meeting, and my face (by
reason of a cold I had taken) was sore; but God manifested His
strength in us and with us, and all was well. The Lord have the
glory for evermore, for His supporting power!
It was the latter end of the summer when I came to
London, where I stayed the winter following; saving that once or
twice, my wife being in town with me, I went with her to her son
Rous's at Kingston. And though my body was very weak, yet I was in
continual service, either in public meetings, when I was able to
bear them, or in particular business amongst Friends, and visiting
those that were sufferers for Truth, either by imprisonment or loss
Many things also in this time I wrote, some for the
press, and some for particular service; as letters to the King of
Denmark and Duke of Holstein on behalf of Friends that were
sufferers in their dominions.
The yearly meeting coming on, I was much concerned
for Friends that came up to it out of the country, lest they should
meet with any trouble or disturbance in their passage up or down;
and the rather because about that time a great bustle arose in the
nation upon the Duke of Monmouth's landing in the West. But the
Lord, according to His wonted goodness, was graciously pleased to
preserve Friends in safety, and gave us a blessed opportunity to
meet together in peace and quietness, and accompanied our meeting
with His living, refreshing presence: blessed for ever be His holy
Considering the hurries that were in the nation, it
came upon me at the close of this meeting to write a few lines to
Friends, to caution all to keep out of the spirit of the world, in
which trouble is, and to dwell in the peaceable Truth.
I came back to London in the First month, 1686, and
set myself with all diligence to look after Friends' sufferings,
from which we had now some hopes of getting relief. The sessions
came on in the Second month at Hicks's-Hall, where many Friends had
appeals to be tried. I was with these from day to day, to advise
them, and to see that no opportunity was slipped nor advantage
lost; and they generally succeeded well.
Soon after the King was pleased, upon our often
laying our sufferings before him, to give order for the releasing
of all prisoners for conscience' sake that were in his power to
discharge. Thereby the prison-doors were opened, and many hundreds
of Friends, some of whom had been long in prison, were set at
Some of those who had for many years been
restrained in bonds, came now up to the yearly meeting, which was
in the Third month this year. This caused great joy to Friends, to
see our ancient, faithful brethren again at liberty in the Lord's
work, after their long confinement. And indeed a precious meeting
we had; the refreshing presence of the Lord appearing plentifully
with us and amongst us.
[Gradually Fox was growing physically weaker, and
though his pen was busy with documents and letters, he records
almost nothing in his Journal.]
In the Seventh month I returned to London, having
been near three months in the country for my health's sake, which
was very much impaired; so that I was hardly able to stay in a
meeting the whole time; and often after a meeting had to lie down
on a bed. Yet did not my weakness of body take me off from the
service of the Lord, but I continued to labour in and out of
meetings, in His work, as He gave me opportunity and
I had not been long in London before a great weight
came upon me, and the Lord gave me a sight of the great bustles and
troubles, revolution and change, which soon after came to pass. In
the sense thereof, and in the movings of the Spirit of the Lord, I
wrote "A general epistle to Friends, to forewarn them of the
approaching storm, that they might all retire to the Lord, in whom
About this time great exercises and weights came
upon me (as they had usually done before the great revolutions and
changes of government), and my strength departed from me; so that I
reeled, and was ready to fall, as I went along the streets. At
length I could not go abroad at all, I was so weak, for some time,
till I felt the power of the Lord to spring over all, and had
received an assurance from Him, that He would preserve His faithful
people to Himself through all.
About the middle of the First month, 1688-9,I went to
London, the Parliament then sitting, and engaged about the bill for
indulgence. Though I was weak in body, and not well able to stir
about, yet so great a concern was upon my spirit on behalf of Truth
and Friends, that I attended continually for many days, with other
Friends, at the Parliament-House, labouring with the members, that
the thing might be done comprehensively and effectually.
I remained at London till the beginning of the
Ninth month, being
continually exercised in the work of the Lord, either in public
meetings, opening the way of Truth to people, and building up and
establishing Friends therein, or in other services relating to the
Church of God. For the Parliament now sitting, and having a bill
before them concerning oaths, and another concerning clandestine
marriages, several Friends attended the House, to get those bills
so worded that they might not be hurtful to Friends. In this
service I also assisted, attending on the Parliament, and
discoursing the matter with several of the members.
[Here follows (January 10th, 1691) the last entry
in the Journal, with the letter written to the Irish Friends who
were enduring almost indescribable sufferings, occasioned by the
civil war in Ireland.]
Not long after I returned to London, and was almost
daily with Friends at meetings. When I had been near two weeks in
town, the sense of the great hardships and sore sufferings that
Friends had been and were under in Ireland, coming with great
weight upon me, I was moved to write an epistle, as a word of
consolation unto them.
[The next day he went to Gracechurch Street
Meeting, which was large and in which he preached a long and
powerful sermon, "opening many deep and weighty things." He then
offered prayer, and the meeting closed. When some Friends came to
his room in White-Hart-Court, later in the day, he told them he had
"felt the cold strike to his heart, as he came out of meeting";
"yet," he added, "I am glad I was here (i. e., in the meeting). Now
I am clear, I am fully clear!" Later, when Friends were visiting
him, he said: "All is well; the Seed of God reigns over all and
over death itself. And though I am weak in body, yet the power of
God is over all, and the Seed reigns over all disorderly spirits."
"Lying thus in a heavenly frame of mind, his spirit wholly
exercised towards the Lord," he fell asleep in peace on the evening
of January 13th, 1691. The funeral was attended by a very large
concourse of people, and the body was laid in the burying-ground
near Bunhill Fields, where the grave is now marked with a modest
stone. Few men in the dying hour could say more truly, "I am