June 18, 2007

NEFBQ: Reply to an Epistle to Quakers

I've fallen way behind in my entering A New England Fire-brand Quenched, but I finally completed the next section, Fox's reply to Roger Williams' opening Epistle to Quakers. (The previous section was a reply to the Epistle to the King, and the next section will be an Epistle to Richard Baxter, a Puritan who was none too fond of Quakers.)

Much of it is Fox's blasting Williams for his misjudgements about the Quakers, but I'm not so sure that tarring the founder of Rhode Island with the sins of Massachusetts was particularly sensible or effective here. (Rhode Island was founded as a sanctuary from the religious persecutions of Massachusetts.) There's also some discussion of Quaker behavior, like going naked for a sign.

{Epistle to Quakers}

And R. W. saith in his Epistle to the people called Quakers, From his Childhood (now above Threescore years) the Father of Light and Mercy hath touched his soul with a love to himself; to his only begotten the true Lord Jesus, to his Holy Scriptures, &c. His infinite wisdom hath given him to see the City, Court, and Country, the Schooles and Universities of his Native County, to converse with some Jews, Turks, and Papists, and all sorts of Protestants, and by Books to know the affairs and Religions of all Countries.

Ans. Roger, if thy Judgement and knowledge be no better of Jews, Turks, Papists, and Protestants, and Religions, then it is of the People of God called Quakers, thy Knowledge and Judgement is little worth for all thy great boast. Thou tells us of thy Knowledge; and if this be the end of thy Threescore-years work, it's sad, to publish so many falsehoods to the world against the People of God (which thou hadst not from the Father of Lights) and at this Age to desire Pope, Turk, Rome, and Constantinople were in Ashes; which thou received not from the God of Mercies, nor his only begotten the true Lord Jesus, nor from the Holy Scriptures, but from the Father of lyes, the destroyer, who appeared against the Prophets, Christ and the Apostles, and against Adam and Eve in Paradice. And Roger, we desire, that thou mayst see a day of Repentance, if it be not hid from thy eyes.

R. W. Thy Conclusion is: Be of good cheer, thy sins are forgiven thee, Mat. 9 and it is one of the joyful sounds that ever came to poor sinful ears. How to obtain this sound from the mouth of the Mediator that spoke it, is the greatest Dispute betwixt the Protestants, and the bloody Whore of Rome: this is also the great point betwixt the Protestants and yourselves (to wit, the Quakers.)

Ans. As for the Papists we leave them to answer R. W. themselves, but we never had this Dispute before, how to obtain this sound from the mouth of the Mediator (to wit, Christ Jesus) that is to say, be of good chear, thy sins be forgiven thee. Now, if R. W. or any of his dark Company, doth not know, how to obtain this sound from the mouth of Christ the Mediator, (which he says, is the Dispute betwixt the Papists and them, and them and the Quakers, though they both hear the sound or report of it) if this the Question, we tell him and them, by faith, as they did in Matth. 9. and by believing in the Light, which comes from Jesus, which Jesus has enlightened them withall, with which they may see their sins; and by believing it see Christ their Saviour and Mediator, and hear his Heavenly voice, saying, be of good chear, thy sins be forgiven three. Which the Quakers have heard, and so are his Sheep, and know his voice, and follow him: who gives them Life Eternal, and would have none to perish, Joh. 10 So we are to hear him, (and not to turn away from him) that speaketh from Heaven, &c. Heb. 12, 25, 26.

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December 5, 2006

NEFBQ: what a selfish Prayer is this?

It's been a while since I posted a piece of A New-England Fire-Brand Quenched. After the preliminaries about who saw or didn't see who during Fox's visit to Rhode Island, Fox challenges the Epistle to the King at the start of Roger Williams' GEORGE FOX Digged out of his Burrows, &c. Some of it challenges Williams' flattery of the King and abuses of the Quakers, but the strongest part responds to:

R. W. And yet thou sayst to the King, If the Most-High please, Old and New-England may flourish, when the Pope and Mahomet, Rome, and Constantinople are in Ashes.

By 17th-century standards, that doesn't strike me as a particularly unusual wish, but Fox is, I think, completely right to challenge both the prayer and what it says about the person praying for such a circumstance:

Ans. How now Roger, what a selfish Prayer is this? Dost thou think that God, or Christ or the King, or at White-Hall will hear this Prayer? is this a Loyal Subject, oran Affectionate Orator at the Throne of Grace? But why would thou have Rome and Constantinople in the Ashes? why wouldst have these two Cities in the Ashes? What hurt do these Cities to thee and the New-England Priests and Professors?

...For if the Pope and Mahomet be Enemies; were not thou to love them according to Christ's Doctrine? where is thy Christianity now Roger? And if the Pope or Mahomet have destroyed any for Religion, are not thou as bad as they? nay worse, because thou professt thyself a better Christian: And yet thou wouldst not only have Pope and Mahomet burnt to Ashes, but their Cities also; which include hundreds of thousands of People, and some Protestants too, that may be there.

But here it is plain (as in Luke 9) that thou dost not know, what Spirit thou art of; as Christ told James and John, better men that thee, when they said, Wilt thou, that we command Fire to come down from Heaven, even as Elias did: but Christ turned him about, and rebuked them, and said, You know not, what Spirit you are of; for the Son of man is not come to destroy mens lives, but to save them. And so R. W. thou dost not know thy own Spirit; and therefore art very unfit to direct other Men's....

Is this his Christian Practice and Doctrine, and way of converting the Nations to God? but how short is R. W. of the Royal Law of God. To do unto all men, as he would have them do unto him. But the People of God (called Quakers) are not of R. W.'s mind; for they have the mind of Christ, and would have the Pope and Papists, and Mahometans to repent: and do not desire to see Rome nor Constantinople in their Ashes; but in the Truth, as it is in JESUS.

But all may see, what is in this New-England Priest's heart (his mouth has published it, and spoken it to the King) who hath not the Spirit, nor words of a true Christian, which is, To love Enemies, and pray for them; not Persecute, and burn to Ashe's them that evilly entreat them. O this wicked, envious, destroying Spirit, that would depopulate the Earth to satisfie its evil mind, the Lord rebuke it!

I'm not sure how Williams could have responded to this; perhaps he just shook his head and decided to ignore some fundamental messages of the Gospels, like so many of his predecessors, peers, and intellectual descendants.

The full excerpt is in the extended entry.

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August 25, 2006

NEFBQ: Preliminaries

The opening of A New England Fire-Brand Quenched is a stinging blast against Roger Williams for alleged lies about Williams' attempts to contact George Fox while Fox was visiting Rhode Island:

Oh! how darest thou Roger Williams, publish such false lyes to the World, when thou knowest in thy Conscience, that G. F. had never any Writing, or Letter, or Proposals from thee; neither did he ever exchange a word with thee. The Lord God of Heaven knowes it, and the Deputy Governour knowes, that I received none of thy Writings or Papers or Proposals by him. Behold all sober people the foundation of this mans Attempt, the beginning of his work; and since the foundation of thy Book is a notorious lye, the building upon such a foundation of lyes is not like to be otherwise: which lyes thou hast made thy refuge; as throughout thy Book may be evidently seen. For except a man had sold himself to work falsehood, and make lyes; he could not have done more wickedly, and have uttered falser charges that though hast done. But the Lord God which knows them, and sees thy evil design in them, will sweep them away with the besom of Destruction, and clear his people from thy manifest false tongue...

But by this all may see the wickedness, that is in the Bottle of this R. W. by what does flow out of it in his Book, to wit, a malitious spirit against G. F. who was never concerned him by word or writing, much less did G. F. ever do him wrong. And yet he says, G. F. well knew, what Artillery he was furnisht with out of his own bald writings, (as he scoffingly calls them) &c. when never a word of this is true: though he presumes to present it to the King for Truth concerning G. F. ...

This also is an abominable falsehood, the Lord know it, a groundless untrue imagination of his own; for there was no such Agreement or Consultation. Is this man fit to write of Religion, that lyes? a vain man! What is he, and his designs, that they should require Consultations and Junctos? so let the honest Reader Judge, from whence R. W. had all these lyes, if not from his Father the Devil, who is out of Truth: but with the Truth is both his Father and he Judged.

I've put the whole opening section, in which Fox argues over what was sent or not sent during his visit, in the extended entry. It's not particularly theologically interesting, nor do I find that Fox's repetitions and tirades show him at anywhere near his best. The next section looks brighter.

(This book also appears to have a greater number of typos that the other old printings of Fox I've seen. The same word is spelled differently different places, there's a strange use of a parenthesis point the wrong direction, and so on. No doubt I'm adding new typos in entering it, but hopefully I'll be able to clear those up with a few reviews.)

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July 20, 2006

NEFBQ: To the Reader

The title page of A New England Fire-Brand Quenched gave readers a sense of what was to come in the body of the book, but the section "To the Reader" goes into more depth, including something that isn't exactly an apology though it does start with "we are sorry":

Though we are sorry, we have this Occasion, that [Roger Williams] hath given us, to give forth this Reply and Dispute with him of his Slanderous Proposals (we cannot look upon them otherwise, but so; and therefore for Truth's sake, as it is in JESUS, and for the Name of Christ and true Christianity have we been constrained to Answer him, as we have done both in Dispute and in this: )

Yet we have so much Charity to believe, that all the Professors in New England are not of his Judgment, and those that are, they are like to bear their own Burthen, whether they are Priests or Magistrates. But of all the Books I ever read, I never saw so much Foul Language and Contradictions (which would swell up a Book too much, if we should let the Reader see them all distinct) And also many false Conclusions & Inferences, that he hath made, and Invented Words and Principles to be ours, which we never Heard of before, neither ever were in our Thoughts: and then, when he hath done, he Raileth at them and us.

If a Man had sold himself to Work Wickedness, and (Inspired with a dark Power and Spirit) to invent Falsehood against an Innocent and Suffering People, Roger Williams hath done it; who abuseth his Pen, abuseth the Press, abuseth his Neighbours; and he living in a Peaceable Government: Which when the People called Quakers had the Government, they never molested him. AND so 'tis not only the Quakers, but other Sorts of People, that he flies out again; which we question, whether ever he had so much Modesty, as to speak to any of their Faces: But this has been his Work, to defile Peoples Minds his Lies, Slanders, Falsehoods and Forgeries of things against us, which we do Abhor: as may be seen in his Book.

And that which we desire is, That the Lord may give him REPENTANCE, and all that join with him, if it be his Will, and it be not hid from his and his Confederates Eyes. [Paragraph breaks added.]

I've put the full introduction in the extended entry.

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July 15, 2006

A New England Fire-Brand Quenched

Most of George Fox's published writing is available somewhere on the Web, often at the Earlham School of Religion's Digital Quaker Collection. Some discussion on the Quaker Texts mailing list revealed the largest piece which isn't freely available, A New England Fire-Brand Quenched, was written by Fox with John Burnyeat in 1679. I'll be trying to make that 450-page volume available over the next few years here.

The book is, much like The Great Mystery, a point-by-point reponse to criticism. Unlike that book, which responded to a wide variety of critics, A New England Fire-Brand Quenched is a detailed response to a single critic, Roger Williams, founder of Rhode Island, champion of religious freedom, and a religious dissident himself. H. Larry Ingle provides some background to the dispute between Williams and Fox in his First Among Friends, exploring the ways their similarities would lead them to greater conflict:

Roger Williams... was himself so rigid that he found it difficult to get along with anyone in religious matters; the Friends' reputation for a free-wheeling theology made it impossible for him ever to hit it off with them. Considering them the worst kind of antinomians, nearly anarchists, he castigated them as "anti-Christian," "blasphemous," "scornful," "censorious," and tossed the catch-all label "Ranter" right back at them for encouraging women to strip naked....

An irascible Roger Williams [who had just lost an election to Quaker forces], his teeth on edge, licked his political wounds and determined to have it out with the Quaker invaders.

Actually, Fox and Williams had much in common, in both their styles and their ideas. Blunt and forthright, disdaining the niceties of polite society, they were principled and argumentative men, and each insisted on the rightness of his own convictions. Both profoundly disliked hireling ministers. Williams was a committed democrat politically, if less willing than Fox to adapt these principles to his religious predilections - he deemed allowing women to speak as something he called "will worship." He referred to himself as a "Seeker." They each wanted active government, though Williams was not as thorough-going as Fox, who had glimpsed the possibilities of a true revolution at home.

Both found much to respect in Indian ways and wanted Europeans to deal justly with the Native Americans. Curiously, they got on better with the aboriginals, despite the gulfs of cultural differences and language, than they coould with each other or with those of their own people with whom they disagreed on theological matters; each, in other words, only practiced tolerance up to a point of ideological closeness. Fox thus reserved his choicest anathemas for any adherent who dared carry his principles too far, while Williams, unable to vouch for his wife's salvation, refused to take communion with her. (238-9)

Williams and Fox seem to have been just close enough to ignite their strongest fighting passions, though Fox left Rhode Island before Williams' invitation to a debate arrived, and the debate between Fox and Williams wound up in print instead, as the title page of this book records:

A NEW-ENGLAND Fire-Brand Quenched, Being an ANSWER unto a Slanderous Book, Entituled; GEORGE FOX Digged out of his Burrows, &c. Printed at Boston is the Year 1676. by Roger Williams of Providence in New-England.

Which he Dedicated to the KING with Desires, That, if the Most-High please, Old, and New-England may Flourish, when the Pope & Mahomet & Constantinople are in their Ashes.

Of a DISPUTE upon XIV. of his Proposal held and debated betwixt him, the said Roger Williams, on the one part, and John Stubs, William Edmundson and John Burnyeat on the other.

At Providence and Newport in Rode-Island, in the Year 1672, IN which his Cavils are Refuted, & his Reflections Reproved.

In Two Parts

AS ALSO, An ANSWER to R.W.'s APPENDIX, &c. WITH A POST-SCRIPT Confuting his Blasphemous Assertions, viz. Of the Blood of Christ, that was Shed, its being Corruptible and Corrupted; and that Salvation was by a Man, that was Cor- ruptible, &c. Where-unto is added a CATALOGUE of his Railery, Lies, Scorn & Blasphemies: And His TEMPORIZING SPIRIT made manifest. Also, The LETTERS of W. Coddington of Rode-Island, and R. Scot of Providence in New-England concerning R.W. And Lastly, Some TESTIMONIES of Ancient & Modern Authors concerning the LIGHT, SCRIPTURES, RULE & the SOUL of Man.


Printed in the Year M DC LXXIX.

A "CATALOGUE of his Railery, Lies, Scorn & Blasphemies" ? Should be interesting reading. I'll be posting this in pieces as I manage to type them in, so there's much much more to come.

Update: I've created a category containing all the pieces I type in, if you want to find it in one place.